Vittorio Cafiero in 1937 did a new "Urban Plan" for Asmara...maintaining the old street plans, done by the "Cavagnari Plan" in 1914 -that divided Asmara in four sections: the Italian, the native Eritrean, the governmental and the industrial, he added a new section for future development with a "circonvallazione" (round circle avenue). The improvement of the axis around "Roma square", "Mussolini boulevard", "Cadorna boulevard" and the "railways station", moved to the south the administrative/economic center of the planned city... to the southeast there was the green quarter with rich villas around the Ghezza Banda" hill... and to the north of the "Milano boulevard" there was the indigenous quarter. -- SantoianniIn 1885, the Italians invaded Eritrea and by 1900 Asmara had become the capital city: the site was chosen mainly for its salubrious highland climate, reliable water supply and ideal geographic location in the center of Eritrea. In the early twentieth century, Asmara represented little more than a tiny highland village, which grew incrementally to become a well-established town by the 1920s. However, by the 1930s, it was clear that Italy, under the rule of Benito Mussolini, was intent on invading neighbouring Ethiopia and would use Eritrea as the launch pad for this long-held ambition. In preparation for this substantial military attack, an unprecedented quantity of materials and labour flowed into Eritrea throughout the 1930s. In a matter of months, Asmara became a vast building site, as over 70,000 Italians arrived to established new lives for themselves. The rapid transformation of Asmara from a relatively minor town into Africa's most modern and sophisticated city at that time overlapped with equally momentous events in the world of design and architecture, which involved the global proliferation of Modernism and its various forms, including "Futurism", "Rationalism, "Novecento Italiano", and "Art Deco". The spirit of this new age of travel and adventure was embodied in these new architectural forms. Asmara was an ideal blank canvas on which Italian architects could practice and create these modern ideals. From 1935-1941, thousands of buildings were constructed in the city, most of which reflect various Modernist styles and some of which represent inimitable architectural forms, such as petrol stations mimicking aeroplanes and boats, commercial buildings designed as trains, cavernous cinemas with fine period plasterwork and Art Deco interiors, fine ultra-modern hotels and offices, and government buildings with highly politicised monumental designs. Features The city is known for its early 20th century buildings, including the Art Deco "Cinema Impero" (opened in 1937 and considered by the experts one of the world's finest examples of Art Déco style building), the Cubist "Africa Pension", the eclectic Eritrean Orthodox "Tewahdo" Church, the former "Asmara Opera House", the futurist architecture "Fiat Tagliero Building", the neo-Romanesque architecture "Roman Catholic Cathedral", and the neoclassical architecture "Governor's Palace". The city is adorned by Italian colonial villas and mansions, one prominent example being the "Asmara's World Bank Building''. Most of central Asmara was built between 1935 and 1941, so effectively the Italians managed to build almost an entire city in just six short years (read BBC: Reviving Asmara ; http://www.bbc.co.uk/africalives/ram/reviving_asmara01.ram ) At this time, the dictator Benito Mussolini had great plans for a second Roman Empire in Africa. War cut this short, but his injection of funds created the Asmara of today, which supposedly was to be a symbol that his "Fascism" worked and that it was an ideal system of government. The city shows off most early 20th century architectural styles. Some buildings are "neo-Romanesque architecture", such as the Roman Catholic Cathedral, some villas are built in a late "Victorian Architecture" style. Art Deco influences are found throughout the city; essentially Asmara was then what Dubai is now. Architects were restricted by nothing more than the bounds of their imaginations and were given the funds to create masterpieces which we can see today. Essences of "Cubism" can be found on the "Africa Pension Building", and on a small collection of buildings. The "Fiat Tagliero Building" shows almost the height of futurism, just as it was coming into big fashion in Italy. In recent times, some buildings have been functionally built which sometimes can spoil the atmosphere of some cities, but they fit into Asmara as it is such a modern city. Italian Asmara had even a 19th century fort, Forte Baldissera, and was connected to the port of Italian Massaua by the "Eritrean Railway" and by a state-of-the-art "Asmara-Massawa Cableway". The Asmara airport was created in 1922, the first such facility to be opened in Italian Eritrea. It served as the main military airport in the territory. In the mid-1930s, the airport began offering civilian and commercial flights: the first international was the Asmara-Rome, started in 1933. Furthermore, an efficient postal service was created using the Asmara airport. On 7 July 1935, an agreement was signed with the British "Imperial Airways" to connect Asmara to Khartoum. A regular Kassala-Khartoum-Asmara-Massawa 770 km commercial route was subsequently started with a Caproni Ca.133 of the Italian "Ala Littoria".(read Flavio Riccitelli. ALA LITTORIA S.A. (1934–1941); http://www.ilpostalista.it/unico2004pag55.htm). During World War II, the airport was nearly destroyed by the British. Italian Asmara was known in 1940 to be an exceptionally modern city, not only because of its architecture, but even because had more "traffic lights" than Rome had when the city was being built. The city incorporates many features of a planned city. Indeed, Asmara was an early example of an ideal modern city created by architects, an idea which was introduced into many cities across the world, such as Brasilia, but which was not altogether popular. Features include designated city zoning and planning, wide treed boulevards, political areas and districts and space and scope for development. The city has been regarded as "New Rome" or "Italy's African City" due to its quintessential Italian touch, not only for the architecture, but also for the wide streets, piazzas and coffee bars. While the boulevards are lined with palms and indigenous ''shiba'kha'' trees, there are numerable pizzerias and coffee bars, serving "cappuccinos" and "lattes", as well as "ice cream" parlours. Indeed the first brewery in Asmara (and Eritrea) was the ''Melotti Brewery'', that was founded in 1939 by Luigi Melotti: even now it exists but with the new name "Asmara Brewery" and supports one of the best football teams in Eritrea (the "Asmara Brewery F.C."). Asmara has been proposed as a possible new addition to the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, under the direction of the "Cultural Assets Rehabilitation Project", for its outstanding examples of 20th century architecture and town planning when was called ''Asmara italiana''.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Italian Eritrea was a colony of Italy from the end of the XIX century until just after WWII. The main cities were "Italian Asmara" (the capital) and "Italian Massaua" (the main port). The two cities in those years had a huge population of Italians and their descendants: more than 3/4 of the Italians living in Italian Eritrea were in both cities. Here it is a description of Italian Asmara, nicknamed "piccola Roma" (little Rome): ITALIAN ASMARA '''Italian Asmara''' was the capital of Italian Eritrea from 1890 to 1941, when Eritrea was called in Italian language with the nickname ''Colonia Primigenia'' (first colony) of the Kingdom of Italy.