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Isabel Maria
Nunes Martins

1946, Porto (PT)


Isabel Maria Nunes Martins

b. 1946

Isabel Martins b.jpg


Universidade Agostinho Neto, Luanda – 1st graduate class (AO); FAUP, PT



final exam / graduation project

“Luanda, a cidade e a arquitectura” (PhD); the construction of Luanda’s territory from the pre-colonial period until the end of Port. colonialism

work in Africa



practice & partnerships

Head of the Department of Architecture of the Faculty of Engineering of the Agostinho Neto University. Founder of the Angolan Association of Architects. Collaborated with the National Institute of Cultural Heritage promoting Angolan heritage.

other activities



Isabel Martins is an Angolan architect, urban planner, professor and researcher at Agostinho Neto University (UAN). Born in Porto (Portugal) in 1946, she graduated in 1985 in the first class of the UAN Architecture course. She has remained an academic at this post-colonial university, and been responsible for the formation of different generations of Angolan architects. She is the Head of the Department of Architecture of the Faculty of Engineering. Martins obtained a PhD in 2001 from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto in Portugal. Her thesis entitled Luanda, a cidade e a arquitectura was pioneering in understanding the construction of Luanda’s territory from the pre-colonial period until the end of Portuguese colonialism. This historical research on the colonial occupation and pre-independence heritage, constitutes a fundamental reference in Portuguese language studies on architecture and urbanism in Angola.

As one of the first Angolans to obtain a PhD in Architecture, Martins introduced research methodologies in the Angolan academy that linked to the profession and post-independence conditions in Africa.  She has participated and collaborated with European and African institutions, promoting Angolan architectonic and urbanistic culture in debates that cover from the historical heritage – coordinating, with the National Institute of Cultural Heritage, projects such as the candidacy of the city of M´banza Congo to UNESCO World Heritage Site, e.g. – to issues of traditional habitat. Has stood out in the study of informal occupations that are located on the margins of major African cities and where – in the case of Luanda – 80% of urban dwellers reside. She coordinated “Xicala - História e Urbanidade de um Bairro de Luanda” (2014) with Paulo Moreira, research into an informal local community inside Luanda, Angola that was condemned under pressure of real estate, a project developed as the result of the partnership between UAN and Cass School of Architecture, London. The “Chicala Observatory” is a further archive of the history, background and metropolitan traditions of Chicala. As a consultant in seminars, such as O Homem e o Território, Martins’ diagnosis has contributed to the drafting of legislation on land use planning including the Lei de Terras in Angola, promulgated in 2002 by the then president José Eduardo dos Santos which lays down the basis for the legal regime of lands and strengthen land rights of rural and peri-urban communities. As an architect, Martins participated in the founding of the Angolan Association of Architects that preceded the current Professional Order that regulates the exercise of professional practice.

(Ana Vaz Milheiro, 2021)

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