• SmallBanner 01
  • SmallBanner 02
  • SmallBanner 03

Age of Concrete: Housing and the Shape of Aspiration in the Capital of Mozambique


Age of Concrete is a history of the making of houses and homes in the informal settlements of Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques), from the late 1940s to the present. Often dismissed as undifferentiated, ahistorical “slums,” the subúrbios, as they are called, constitute an open-air archive that reveals some of people’s highest aspirations. At first people built in reeds, and those of greater means built zinc-paneled houses. But even as colonial authorities attempted to supress masonry construction, beginning in the 1960s many risked building in concrete block, making permanent homes in a place where their presence was often excruciatingly precarious.

This book further shifts the emphasis in the history of African built environments from laws to practices; from the architect’s drafting table to the building site; from housing officials and professional planners to landlords, tenants, and home builders; and from government-led projects to places better characterized by official neglect. About a hundred people were interviewed for the book, many of whom kindly shared photographs and other materials from their personal archives.

Chapter 5 will be of special interest to readers of this listserv. It deals with the first planning interventions in the subúrbios after independence, including the Maxaquene upgrading project, which was significantly driven by residents themselves. “Planning is not just something conceived in cloistered meeting rooms, subjected to careful review, and then implemented on the ground with all intentions fulfilled. Such a placid reality never truly exists—still less so in a country stumbling into being. In Maputo after independence, lines traced roughly on the ground were lines of communication, allowing suburban citizens to call out to the would-be state.”

The table of contents, introduction, and extended bibliography can be downloaded from the book’s website.

Now available on Amazon: Age of Concrete: Housing and the Shape of Aspiration in the Capital of Mozambique (Ohio University Press, 2019).

(Ohio University Press, 2019)


  • Book