Lugares estranhos do mundo III
Asmara, capital da Eritréia, foi construída pelos italianos entre o final do século XIX e 1941. O livro cuja capa está aí em cima fala principalmente do período 1935-1941, em que todos os arquitetos italianos - modernistas, fascistas, futuristas, piradoístas - foram lá brincar. Nas palavras da crítica registrada pelaONU,
Asmara was essentially built between 1935 and 1941 when Eritrea’s Italian colonizers used the city as a blank canvas to
‘design and build their own urban utopia in East Africa’. Although the Italians occupied the region they called Eritrea (after an
ancient Greek word meaning red) in 1889, a massive influx of Italians in the colony’s capital after 1935 necessitated
development on an unprecedented scale. In just six years, the population grew from 4000 to 45,000. Asmara was
transformed into the most modern city in Africa.
As the city was so far from home, the Italian architects had carte blanche to try their hand at anything. They were inspired
designers and engineers. ‘The city reflects the tempo of the time’, says Professor Naigzy. ‘It is an experimentation with
modernism, unparalleled anywhere else in the world.’ He notes that the different architectural styles have a typically Italian
feel to them. ‘I think the Italians were more adventurous; they had more panache’, he says.
The result is an eclectic mix, ranging from futuristic buildings emulating the new fascination with machines during the early
1900s, which then gave way to the simplistic rationalist or Novecento style, followed by the monumentalism of the fascist era,
with its imposing and austere façades. As fascism waned, this too was reflected in the architecture, with a return to rustic,
classical villas. Intermingled with these various styles are ornate buildings, such as the Asmara theatre, Government House
and the Roman Catholic cathedral, which are unashamedly drawn from neo-classical, Romanesque and Renaissance
influences. Occasionally art deco touches stand out, although Naigzy stresses that Asmara has been wrongly described as
an art deco city. ‘It is essentially rationalist’, he says. ‘Out of 400 buildings surveyed, three-quarters of them were rationalist.
Most of the others are eclectic, borrowing from Greek and Roman classicism.’
The simple, straight designs of rationalism can be seen in numerous buildings around the capital, ranging from small
apartment blocks to multi-storey commercial developments.
But contrasting sharply with this simplicity are the outrageous futuristic constructions – the old Fiat Tagliero garage built to
resemble a plane with expansive wings, or the Bar Zilli, whose boat design juts out into Martyrs Avenue, named after the
tens of thousands who perished in the independence war.
With the dawn of fascism, the Italian dictator Mussolini used Asmara as an architectural blueprint and a launchpad for further
invasion of the continent. The monstrous façade of the former fascist party headquarters on Asmara’s main thoroughfare,
Liberation Avenue, appears to have been ‘stuck’ on to what was originally a very modest building.
When the British took over the administration of Eritrea in 1941, they were surprised to find Asmara as a ‘European city of
broad boulevards, super-cinemas, super-fascist buildings, cafés, shops, two-way streets and a first class hotel’.
A "pujança" da capital modernista, que o governo da Eritréia tenta vender para turismo, é ainda mais impressionante porque ela é o núcleo de uma impressionante coleção de aldeias de migrantes, apertadas umas contra as outras. Durante os tempos coloniais, os eritreus eram proibidos de entrar na Asmara dos brancos, a não ser a serviço, e o contraste é muito maior do que em Brasília - ainda mais que a "Cidade de lama" começa logo ao lado da "Cidade Bela," e que na Eritréia, devastada por uma guerra civil de décadas, a pobreza é maior e mais difundida.
Também é interessante que, nesses tempos de globalização e competitividade, a "herança" até do fascismo possa ser usada para tentar se destacar.