Year Built

The Khovolar is a residential facility by Pancho Guedes in the city of Lourenco Marques. The initial concept was drawn up in 1966, commissioned by what was then the Swiss Mission in Mozambique who had a long history of promoting primary education. The site is adjacent to the large complex also belonging to the Mission of Av. Pinheiro Chagas (Mondlane).

It is said that the Mission envisioned the facility to provide accommodation for students who would be attending secondary or tertiary education. In those years educational facilities in the capital were more developed than in other provinces of the country, obliging students to travel to Lourenco Marques to further their education. As a result, the facility was inclined to accepts students from other provinces and from the interior of the country.

The building is implanted on a rectangular plot of 55 x 40 metres accessible from a small road perpendicular to Av. Pinheiro Chagas. It is a four storey building, above the level of the road and a basement which extends much further to the rear of the building which is used as a recreational space and for WC facilities. The site is on a declining slope in the north-south direction.

Also distinct is the separation of the building into two symmetrical volumes one for males and the other for females. Both of these appear to have their installations including discreetly mounted water reservoirs on the terraces. The entrances are also separated at the front of the building with their own stairwells and are not only sunk, but some distance from the main road ensuring a reduction in ambient noise and the illumination of the basement with its large gathering area. The top-most floor has provisions for a laundry which without any doubt would be fundamental to the nature of this building. Other buildings, including the chapel of the Swiss Mission with its tiled roof can be seen immediately to the rear of the Khovolar.

The facade of the building is in a westerly direction indicating high exposure to the heat and light of the sun for most of the day. To maintain the livability, the rooms on the floors (which face the road) are protected by verandahs. There are both large and small verandahs with the larger ones further protected by Venetian blinds that almost completely obscure the floors when closed. The smaller verandahs are the intermediate landings which not only allow for a constant flow of breeze in the stairwalls but also a place for the users to rest as they make their way up.

Views from the rear of the building show a reversal of the situation. The verandah which are now in an easterly direction are recessed but are not covered by the same Venetian blinds as in the front. The design of the verandahs of the intermediate landings is replicated to permit for cross-current breezes. Extensive use of brise-soleils and beams increaes shelter to the occupants.

Guedes was a prolific designer who created his own sculptures, paintings and as shown, a custom typeset for the Khovolar which is used for the lettering on the front – “Khovolar masculino” to denote the building and its two wings.

The modernist movement saw innovative revisions of the Christian cross which is a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Guedes integrated a cross into the monogram of the Khovolar. This cross may have been modeled after the Swiss cross most likely due to the project belonging to the Swiss Mission. The logo has also been molded into a three-dimensional concrete pillar.


The Dragon House by Pancho Guedes is one his earliest works. It was completed in 1951 and incorporates several motifs inspired by Antoni Gaudi, the famed Spanish architect who projected the Casa Batllo and the Casa Mila over fifty years earlier.

Pancho Guedes did not travel to Europe until 1952, but he had already been following the work of Le Corbusier who became popular for his concept of developing high density housing blocks as well as that of Gaudi who had been influenced by nature and animal-forms. Guedes found Le Corbusier’s work too clinical for his African and Southern European roots and developed later what he called the Stiloguedes – his own design language which employed curves, sculptures, murals and ceramics amongst many other forms of art.

The Dragon House then is a four storey apartment block on the edge of Av. Pinheiro Chagas (Mondlane) placed at a slight angle. As with the Prometheus building, it is positioned on top of a pilotis structure with the space on far edges of the building’s ground floor reserved for parking.

At the centre of the ground floor is a large, raised entrance hall providing access to the apartments via a stairwell known as the “covered atrium”. Besides the utilitarian function, the entrance may have also been designed as a social gathering point. It is on the posterior wall of this compartment that the building’s namesake, the dragon is found – a mural some fifteen meters wide.

The main stairwell has been designed and finished more elaborately for the dwellers. However, as it was the norm in many buildings at that time, there are two additional stairwells at the rear of the building. These have been constructed for a more utilitarian purpose and allowed servants and building staff to gain access without interfering with the main stairwell. As discriminatory and socially retrograde as it may seem with respect to current social norms, it was the reality of the era and permitted both staff and dwellers additional comfort in terms of privacy and reduction in noise.

Air-conditioning was reserved for more expensive applications still in the 1950s which forced architects to look at alternative solutions for cooling. Pancho Gudes was besides many others around the same time in Mozambique, Angola and other colonies of Portugal who considered closely the movement of the sun and the wind.

The Dragon House has twelve apartments, four on each floor. The apartments are simple with two-bedrooms, a sitting area, a kitchen and bathroom. A hallway (corridor) separates the kitchen from the sitting area.

In order to maximize any opportunities for cooling, the bedrooms were located in an ESE (facade of building) and WNW (rear of building) compass heading. Verandahs of each of the bedrooms extended almost two meters which further reduced exposure to the sun between 30-50%.

Concrete grills in x-shapes were installed on both verandahs permitting reasonably good visibility and light whilst still offering protection from the sun. At the rear of the building in NNW compass heading, where the sun was fully exposed upwards of seven hours per day, brise-soleils fabricated from reinforced concrete are mounted. The angle of inclination is at 30º in relation to the horizontal plane.

Wind circulation was not particularly good at this site, therefore further ingenious design is incorporated through the installation of small tubes functioning as conduits of the breeze at various points. For example, conduits are present on the verandahs carrying the breeze flowing in an ENE compass heading. Such conduits are also found on the north facing facade which carry the breeze into the stairwells.

Today the building is still discernible and many of its defining features can readily be noted. Changes include the conversion of car spaces to shops; use of metallic sheets for additional privacy; security bars on verandahs and air-conditioning units. It may be possible to return the building to the condition envisioned by Guedes with very little intervention.