Tropical Building Research: the Angolan Case


  • Margarida Quintã Centre for innovation in Territory, Urbanism and Architecture




Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


This paper investigates how the notion of “tropical architecture” was established in Angola by looking at the local development of scientific knowledge on climate during the 20th century. It focuses on the processes that gave rise to a growing understanding of the geography and climate of the country, namely through the creation of local research institutes. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, increasingly more climatic data was collected in the country. This data was later combined with studies in building physics, giving rise to original research developed by the lea. Local institutions, such as the Public Works Department of Angola (DSOPA), disseminated this knowledge, eventually influencing not only the design methods of local architects but also the development of specific products in the construction sector. The lea became a research and education organization of great relevance in Angola during the 1960s and the 1970s, as well as a symbol of modernity and the quest for scientific knowledge.

How to Cite

Quintã, M. (2021). Tropical Building Research: the Angolan Case. Docomomo Journal, (63), 18–25.




Author Biography

Margarida Quintã, Centre for innovation in Territory, Urbanism and Architecture

(Porto, Portugal, 1981) Member of the Centre for innovation in Territory, Urbanism and Architecture (CITUA), she holds a degree in architecture from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (2007), and a doctorate with Distinction and Honors from the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (2019). Margarida’s PhD Thesis, Modern Schools in Angola, 1961–1975: Design with Climate and Heritage, examines the climatic performance of Angolan architecture during the last years of Portuguese colonial rule. Through a detailed critical analysis of the passive systems of environmental control developed for the most intrinsically tropical of modern architectures, Margarida’s work demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between the problematics of climate responsiveness and environmental comfort.


COLAÇO, Frederico, Melhoramentos de habitação tradicional em Angola, Memória LEA, No. 52, Luanda, LEA, 1959.

LABORATÓRIO DE ENGENHARIA DE ANGOLA, Laboratório de Engenharia de Angola, Luanda, ABC, 1968.

LEAL, Fernando (coord.), O Clima de Angola, Luanda, Serviço Metereológico de Angola, 1955.

NOVAIS FERREIRA, Henrique, O conceito de ambiência climática aplicável aos estudos de edifícios para habitação, Memória LEA, No. 101, Luanda, LEA, 1965.

NOVAIS FERREIRA, Henrique, Os tipos de investigação e a actividade dos Laboratórios de Engenharia, Memória LEA, No. 125, Luanda, LEA, 1967.

PINTO DA CUNHA, José, “O problema da habitação em Luanda. É preciso construir casas para todos...”, Cultura, No. 2 and 3, Year 1, Luanda, January/March, 1958, 11-12.

SILVEIRA, Mário, Climas de Angola, Luanda, Serviço Meteorológico de Angola, 1962.

TOSTÕES, Ana (ed.), Modern Architecture in Africa: Angola and Mozambique, Lisbon, ICIST/Técnico, 2013.

VIEIRA DA COSTA, Vasco, “Instalações do Laboratório de Engenharia da DSOPA”, unpublished notes, Luanda, 1960.

VIEIRA DA COSTA, Vasco, “Instalações definitivas do Laboratório de Engenharia de Angola - memória descritiva dos pavilhões A, B e C”, unpublished notes, Luanda, 1963.