After doing some research about Angola’s population, it is easy to realise that women in this country constitute the base and foundation of the Angolan family, dedicating their lives to their people and giving up on their education or career, leaving them with high levels of illiteracy and very precarious jobs. Given the alarming number of women dropping out of school or with no access to it, it became quite clear that a Women’s Centre could improve this population’s day-to-day life, not only providing the education these women need, but also providing a new public space for people from all over the city.
Architect: Leonor Pinheiro Torres
Location: Luanda, Angola.
This project is placed in Luanda, the capital city of Angola, more specifically in the Prenda Neighbourhood. Among this area’s particularities is the fact that only one little portion of it was planned, whilst the rest of it is a “musseque”, the Angolan term for ‘slum’. These slums are characterised by its high levels of poverty and its lack of basic public infrastructures. The project started with the proposal of a masterplan with new housing models and new public spaces and buildings for the “musseque”.
The building for the Women’s Centre started as a solid box. Four different voids were created by taking pieces from it, resulting in four exterior areas where the most important activities (social, academic, leisure) are expected to take place. All interior spaces are directly connected to those exterior areas, giving the public the possibility of doing all their activities outside, and providing natural light and ventilation inside. Everyone can access the building’s flat roof and the exterior theatre, a fact that contributes to the public character of the building.
Its functional program includes two auditoriums (interior and exterior), a library, an industrial kitchen, eight classrooms for multiple purposes, a medical department and a legal department, among other basic facilities. Most of these interior spaces are located around the central void, thus creating a point from which people can access all parts of the building and creating an area where they can meet in between lessons or at the end of the day.
Material-wise, the building combines both brick and concrete. Knowing how important it is, in this part of the planet, to provide light and ventilation in a controlled manner, instead of having big openings, the façade is mostly made of “cobogós”. This system is commonly used in Luanda, and it consists of creating brick walls where the bricks’ side faces are not touching, thus creating little openings in between them, and allowing the light and air in.
Leonor Pinheiro Torres
Leonor Pinheiro Torres is a half Spanish, half Portuguese Architect, who concluded her Master’s Degree in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, in 2018. She currently works as an intern in Lisbon. Having a strong sensitivity towards the context and characteristics of the building’s site and its population’s needs, her main goal as an architect is to provide sustainable architecture for everyone, regardless of their social or economic status.