'This neighbourhood is an endangered species' : investigating urban conflict and reciprocity between Chicala and Luanda, Angola

Moreira, Paulo (2018) 'This neighbourhood is an endangered species' : investigating urban conflict and reciprocity between Chicala and Luanda, Angola. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


At the heart of this thesis is an investigation of the reciprocal relationship between the city of Luanda and one of its central informal neighbourhoods, Chicala. The study situates Chicala among conflicts that have arisen in the urban densification process and their socio-political management, and in the context of a long history of natural formation. The particular geographical location of Chicala, along with its integrity and specific development, made the neighbourhood vulnerable to colonial invasions, and more recently to aggressive urbanism and large-scale masterplans.

In the context of Luanda’s current neoliberal trajectory of urban regeneration following a protracted civil war (1975-2002), Chicala is undergoing a process of demolition and replacement by high-standard real estate developments. The research began shortly before plans for the complete erasure of the neighbourhood were implemented and local authorities and private investors forcefully displaced its inhabitants to remote settlements with unsuitable living conditions.

The thesis aims to write Luanda’s urban history afresh by forging a place for the neighbourhood of Chicala and its wider context in the city’s urban order. Documentation of the characteristics of a neighbourhood on the brink of disappearing required a collaborative methodological approach, and a reflection of how architects can operate in such complex urban settings. The thesis aims to go beyond a mere exploration of informal architectural order; rather, it is a contribution to understanding Luanda, and to understanding postcolonial cities in general in their depth.

Analysis of a set of relationships between the neighbourhood and the city is presented in a chronology of six chapters. Each chapter emphasises the ‘hybrid’ nature of Chicala as part of a larger context, both in urban terms (autoconstruction, monuments and neoliberal form-fantasies are addressed as part of an urban continuum) and historically (precolonial, colonial and postcolonial periods are presented as part of an interconnected process).

The thesis concludes with remarks on the collaborative dimension of the research and the practices of ‘blurring’ it enabled. It is complemented by four Appendices, presenting a portfolio which complements the methodological approach: fieldwork reports, institutional documents based on the collaboration with Agostinho Neto University, and an extensive visual archive produced over the course of the research.

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