The Casa de Ferro (English: Iron House) is a historic prefabricated iron building located in Maputo, Mozambique. Originally built in Belgium, the structure was bought by the Portuguese colonial government and reassembled in 1892 in Maputo (at the time named Lourenço Marques). It was intended to serve as the residence of the Governor of the District of Lourenço Marques.

Casa de Ferro
The main façade of the building.
General information
LocationMaputo,  Mozambique
AddressIntersection of Avenida Samora Machel and Rua Enrique de Sousa
Completed1892 (assembled in Maputo)
Technical details
Structural systemDanly system
Design and construction
Architect(s)Joseph Danly

However, the building was never inhabited and has instead served as the seat of a variety of local and national institutions throughout its existence. The house is currently open to the public as a fine example of the experimental use of iron in European colonial architecture in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

History edit

The use of iron in architecture acquired considerable popularity in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, as improvements in techniques allowed for increasingly finer castings for the employment of iron as a both decorative and structural material.[1] The simultaneous development of prefabricated and transportable buildings further contributed to the success of iron architecture, enabling entire iron buildings to be transported in pieces across vast distances and subsequently assembled.[2][3]

The colonial expansion of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the construction of several prefabricated iron buildings in colonial contexts. Colonial administrations sought them out partly due to the fashionable nature of a construction material still perceived as a novelty within the context of domestic architecture,[4] but also for iron's fire-retardant and damp-proof properties, strength, and durability.[5] The Casa de Ferro is one of a handful of well-preserved surviving examples found in former Portuguese colonies of the short-lived building trend, together with the Palácio de Ferro in Luanda, Angola.

The Casa de Ferro was constructed in Belgium, in the workshops of the Societé Anonyme des Forges d'Aiseau, using a newly patented, state-of-the-art construction system developed by the Belgian engineer Joseph Danly and known as the Danly system.[6][7][8] It was later acquired by the Portuguese government by order of the Governor-general of Portuguese Mozambique, Raphael Jácome Lopes de Andrade, to serve as the new residence for the Governor of the District of Lourenço Marques.[9][10]

The house was brought in pieces to Lourenço Marques by ship together with two workers assigned to carry out the final assembly,[4] and was erected there in 1892.[11] The building's erection took place concurrently with the relocation of colonial offices and institutions from the Island of Mozambique (the historical capital of Portuguese Mozambique) to the southern settlement of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), which had been elevated to the status of city in 1887 and would become the new capital of the colony in 1898.[12]

However, the Governor of the District rejected the idea of residing in the Casa de Ferro soon after its completion. According to popular belief, the decision was motivated by the insufferable heat produced by the iron's prolonged exposure to the tropical sun.[11][13] However, research has established that the climate was a minor, if not outright irrelevant, factor in the unexpected turn of events, with the Governor's preference for a more traditionally constructed building playing a much more substantial part.[14][15]

Upon completion the structure was provisionally used as a court.[4][16] In 1893, mere months after its construction, the Governor-general donated it to António Barroso, the Catholic Prelate of Mozambique. Barroso converted the house into the seat of the newly established Instituto de Ensinho Rainha Dona Amélia, a missionary institute for female education.[9][15] In 1910 the Instituto Dona Amélia ceased to exist;[14] consequently, the Casa de Ferro changed hands again and became a school run by the Sociedade de Instrução e Beneficiência 1° de Janeiro.[15] The building subsequently went on to house colonial offices,[6] specifically the Serviços de Agrimensura (land surveying services).[14]

In 1966 the structure was moved from its original location on Avenida 5 de Outubro to its present placement at the intersection of Avenida Samora Machel and Rua Enrique de Sousa, adjacent to the Tunduru Gardens.[17] In 1974, after the end of the Mozambican War of Independence, the Casa de Ferro served as the provisional seat of the FRELIMO political party, and later as the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture's Arquivo do Património Cultural (ARPAC).[10] Restored in 2014,[18] the building is still used to this day to house offices of the Ministry of Culture, but is open to visitors.[15]

Architecture edit

Detail of the exterior of Villa Ker ar Bruck in Crozon, France, constructed with the Danly system. Note the design of the panels, identical to that of the Casa de Ferro.

Similarly to the Peruvian Casa de Fierro (also by Joseph Danly), the Casa de Ferro is sometimes erroneously described as the work of renowned architect Gustave Eiffel.[11] However, claims that the building was designed by Eiffel are unfounded.[11][19]

Buildings constructed according to the Danly system feature a wrought iron structure, with cast iron connecting pieces and thin, embossed iron cladding panels with convex geometrical designs which serve both decorative and structural functions.[19] The iron panels are mounted both on the inside and on the outside of the frame, leaving a clear internal space and thus allowing air to circulate freely inside the walls; internal ventilation is further ensured by holes pierced on the interior panels close to the ceilings, as well as by the numerous windows in each room.[20] No foundations are needed for houses built with the Danly system, as the lightweight structures are simply mounted on top of an iron frame laid upon the ground;[20] this made the construction and the later relocation of the Casa de Ferro simple and fast processes.

The abundance of design features allowing for air movement in Danly's buildings demonstrate that they were intended for hot climates; in fact, the Belgian engineer developed his system specifically for use in the colony of Belgian Congo.[19] The Danly system, regarded as highly sophisticated in comparison with other prefabricated iron building systems of that era,[19] had considerable success in Latin America and was extensively employed in countries such as Peru, Brazil, and Mexico;[21] at the time of the construction of the Casa de Ferro, the system was also very popular in Portuguese Mozambique.[4]

The façade portico.

Eclectic in style, the Casa de Ferro has a design reminiscent of Victorian architecture, blending with Maputo's other late nineteenth-century colonial buildings, which were largely influenced by South African architecture.[22] It features an irregular rectangular plan and is three stories tall, with a cross gable roof. The main entrance, which opens on a two-story portico, is on the second story, and is reached through an external flight of steps; a set of two superimposed balconies and a two-story protruding bay, all supported by curved brackets, can be found respectively on the elevations facing north-west and south-east. Apart from the brackets, few other ornamentations adorn the exterior; the building's main decorative element is the ubiquitous geometric design of the gray-painted iron panels, which is repeated throughout both the exterior and the interior of the house.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Sharp 2003, pp. 15–31.
  2. ^ Conway & Roenisch 2006, p. 139.
  3. ^ Dobraszczyk 2017, p. 62.
  4. ^ a b c d De Noronha 1895, p. 108.
  5. ^ Morgan's British Trade Journal and Export Price Current, Vol. 18. London. 1880. pp. 13–14.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ a b Erk 2015, pp. 409–410.
  7. ^ Bordese 2019, p. 10.
  8. ^ Zahner 2020, p. 228.
  9. ^ a b Collecção da legislação novissima do ultramar, Vol. 21 (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional. 1897. p. 17 ("Repertorio alphabetico 1893").
  10. ^ a b Mate 2023, p. 238.
  11. ^ a b c d Carlo, Anne-Lise (9 August 2019), "Au Mozambique, la mystérieuse maison de fer attribuée à Gustave Eiffel", Le Monde (in French), archived from the original on 10 August 2019, retrieved 26 July 2023
  12. ^ Maputo. Britannica. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  13. ^ Wong 2020, p. 113.
  14. ^ a b c De Lima 1966, p. 67.
  15. ^ a b c d Wong 2020, p. 115.
  16. ^ De Lima 1966, p. 60.
  17. ^ Casa de Ferro. Open House Maputo. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  18. ^ "Casa-de-ferro reabilitada", O País (in Portuguese), 29 May 2014, archived from the original on 17 December 2014, retrieved 26 July 2023.
  19. ^ a b c d Guedes 1979, p. 272.
  20. ^ a b Maw & Dredge 1889, p. 472.
  21. ^ D'Alpoim Guedes 2010, p. 16.
  22. ^ Nogueira Simões & Ressano Garcia 2019, p. 197.

Cited literature edit

  • Bordese, Federico G. (May 2019). "La casa de fierro ¿Eiffel?". Revista HISTÓRICA del Archivo Fotográfico de Córdoba (in Spanish): 10.
  • Conway, Hazel; Roenisch, Rowan (2006) [1st pub. 1994]. Understanding architecture: an introduction to architecture and architectural history. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 1134360541.
  • D'Alpoim Guedes, Pedro Paulo (2010). Iron in Building: 1750-1855 – Innovation and Cultural Resistance (PhD).
  • De Lima, Alfredo Pereira (1966). Edifícios históricos de Lourenço Marques (in Portuguese). Lourenço Marques: Tipografia Académica.
  • De Noronha, Eduardo (1895). O districto de Lourenço Marques e a Africa do Sul (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional.
  • Dobraszczyk, Paul (2017) [1st pub. 2014]. Iron, ornament and architecture in Victorian Britain: myth and modernity, excess and enchantment. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1351562096.
  • Erk, Jan (December 2015). "Iron Houses in the Tropical Heat: Decentralization Reforms in Africa and their Consequences". Regional and Federal Studies. 25 (5): 409–410. doi:10.1080/13597566.2015.1114921. S2CID 155921660.
  • Guedes, Pedro, ed. (1979). The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architecture and Technological Change. London: Reference International Publishers. ISBN 1349046973.
  • Mate, Alberto José (2023). Epistemologia da complexidade e pesquisa em turismo: criando sinergias para repensar o desenvolvimento cultural de Moçambique (Thesis) (in Portuguese).
  • Maw, W.H.; Dredge, J., eds. (1889). Engineering, Vol. 47. London: Offices for Advertisements and Publications.
  • Nogueira Simões, Rui; Ressano Garcia, Pedro (2019). "Shading in Architecture and its Relation with Natural Cooling: Learning from Maputo, Mozambique". In Correia Guedes, Manuel; Cantuaria, Gustavo (eds.). Bioclimatic Architecture in Warm Climates: A Guide for Best Practices in Africa. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Publishing. pp. 193–228. ISBN 978-3030120368.
  • Sharp, Dennis (2003). "History of Iron and Steel Construction: The 19th Century". In Blanc, Alan; McEvoy, Michael; Plank, Roger (eds.). Architecture and Construction in Steel. London: E & FN Spon. pp. 15–31. ISBN 1135828393.
  • Wong, Eve (2020). "A pagoda at the pearl of the Indian Ocean: producing nostalgic colonialism and heritage tourism in Mozambique". In Linehan, Denis; Clark, Ian D.; Xie, Philip F. (eds.). Colonialism, Tourism and Place: Global Transformations in Tourist Destinations. Cheltenham–Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 110–127. ISBN 978-1789908190.
  • Zahner, L. William (2020). Steel surfaces: a guide to alloys, finishes, fabrication and maintenance in architecture and art. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN 978-1119541646.

External links edit

25°58′13″S 32°34′22″E / 25.9704°S 32.5728°E / -25.9704; 32.5728