The Beautiful Architecture of Asmara

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In 2017, Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The extraordinary architectural heritage brought by Asmara is essentially a product of Italian imperialism. Asmara was a city until 1897; when Italian settlers decided to move their administrative capital from the port of Massawa to the interior of the Red Sea, the situation changed.

Asmara Opera House from inside edited
The Beautiful Architecture of Asmara. Asmara Opera House

Asmara is more than 2,300 meters above sea level, and it is a cool and healthy place developed by European officials as a hub. The architects used apartments as inspiration to create an unusual and eclectic Italian architectural style. Still, using local materials such as red-black or gray-black stone, these materials have been polished in white, bringing many of these early buildings a Rough and playful finish.

The railway station of Asmara edited

The oldest church was built in the Lombard style, followed by the ambitious cathedral complex, which was replaced in 1923. The brick villa and plumbing company’s offices are inspired by Medieval Tuscany and have matching Romanesque details. Asmara (later the cinema) was designed around 1919. Engineer Odoardo Cavagnari, the chief designer of the new capital. This building with a view of the Renaissance in Florence has a porch reminiscent of the Ospedale Degli Innocenti, which can be reached from the terraced garden by stairs on the street.

Property for sale in Asmara edited 1

When young architects began to praise Asmara in the name of Mussolini in the late 1920s, they called for a change of direction and a look to the future. The previous buildings were decorated with decorations and endless historical references, followed by a new generation of buildings in the language of modernism.

Climate: The balconies and terraces are constructed of heavy concrete with exposed ornaments and plastered walls. They are solid buildings with simple details and well-executed. The first of these is Casa del Fascio, which is now the Ministry of Education. The city center has not been severely hit by common pressures such as commercialization and intrusive tourism; the terrible legacy of Italian apartheid urbanism also persists and spreads to the surrounding hills. Since 2001, no new buildings have been allowed in this important historical area. The World Bank provided guarantees for implementing a large-scale program, the Cultural Property Restoration Program (CARP), which lasted until 2007; over the years, an extensive major building renovation and improvement program and in-depth research have been carried out. Eventually, it was recognized by UNESCO.

Cinema Impero, Asmara, designed by Mario Messina in 1937.Photo: Author. At the same time, certain types of buildings are still being used for their original purposes. Cinema Impero was designed by Mario Messina in 1937 and originally had 1,800 seats. The spread of sporting events (especially football and cycling), decor or modernist cafes and bars has hardly changed. However, after the extraordinary legacy of the Italian automobile industry, these factories found new uses, from the small Agip gas station in 1937 (now owned by Shell) to the most famous modernist building in Eritrea. Fiat Tagliero gas station, designed by Giuseppe Pettazzi and completed in 1938.

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