The Grande Hotel [Work in Progress] Lisa King
“In Mozambique, we used to talk about concrete towns and cane towns. Concrete towns were where the Europeans lived, and cane towns were for the locals. Now after independence the two have come together – a cane town inside a concrete building” – Saratiel.
The Grande Hotel in Beira, Mozambique, was once a palatial colonial establishment. Since Frelimo liberated the country from Portuguese rule in 1975, it has been stripped and has gradually degenerated into a modern-day slum that is now home to over 3000 permanent residents.
The people living in the Grande Hotel are economically disempowered and are subject to a scarcity of resources and basic services. Consequently, the adaptation and transformation of this structure by the residents has been necessary in order for them to co-exist with the changing political, economic and social landscape that has been characteristic of Mozambique since independence. Due to the necessity to survive, the residents have reacted and innovated. Under the leadership of an elected “mayor”, Mr Joao Goncalves, they have organized the Grande Hotel into a community that sustains itself through the implementation of un-written rules, designation of communal areas, the construction of basic “facilities” and the demarcation of areas for markets, spaza shops and the dumping of refuse. They have also re-used old building materials to make doorways, windows and walls - creating a sense of pride and expression around their living spaces. The Grande Hotel now functions as an independent district of the fast-developing port town.
Through “The Grande Hotel” I have attempted to explore this architectural landmark’s structural degeneracy and the subsequent impact on this isolated human ecology. I have sought to enquire into the interwoven forces at play; the political, economic, social and environmental relationships that have led to the Grande Hotel becoming a symbolic microcosm of much of modern day African society, and some of the realities facing daily life.
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
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