From ‘trac(k)ing’ to designing : an urban proposal for Mafalala

Marco AlVES *1

David Leite VIANA *2

*1 Escola Superior Artística do Porto

*2 Escola Superior Gallaecia


The contents explored in this paper result from the Graduation project in architecture, developed by Marco Alves in the academic year 2014-15, under the guidance of professor António Jorge Gonçalves, at ESAP.  The master Thesis was based on a proposal for improving the Mafalala urban space, in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.

Given the particular socio-spatial characteristics of the neighbourhood, it was necessary to develop a research that sought to clarify and frame the large morphological contrasts or the “informality” of the urbanization processes and (self )organization – resulting from individual and subjective (micro)logics  of (self )construction of the building fabric – thus attempting  to inform an intervention idea for contexts which are infra-structurally fragile and very complex urban-wise.

Multiple  approaches were adopted, contemplating  both documental methodologies  and formal methods, like space syntax – using the software UCL depthmap – and having as reference The social logic of space (hillier & hanson, 1984). Various sources and data were analyzed, compared, related and interpreted, in order to obtain the information necessary for consolidating a series of “progressive development strategies” able to contribute to the transformation of the urban form of the neighbourhood and which envisage a significant increase in the levels of integration causing the least possible impact on the already existing urban fabric.

The results obtained take shape and are tested in an urbanization plan that tries to take into account the circulation flows, the appropriation dynamics, the informal uses practiced on public/collective spaces and the most present urban activities in Mafalala. Therefore, the application of formal methods was crucial to the consolidation and expansion of our neighbourhood’s qualitative perception, allowing for a better understanding of how it “pulses” and (self )organizes.

The communication starts from the above listed, and moves on to argue about the possible design strategies to implement in complex urban spaces, marked by significant problems regarding the “right to the city” as well as verifying the contribution of the combination of qualitative and quantitative morphological  approaches to the gradual upgrade and phased increase in the urban “performance” of “informal” housing neighbourhoods such as Mafalala’s.