The Sleeping Beauty

Asmara is home to one of the world’s largest self-contained ensembles of classical modernist architecture and is perhaps to be included in the World Heritage List. The project takes this approach, but also points out that Asmara is not only the “Frozen City”—a time machine that preserves the past. The city is the product of complex strategies of appropriation. The Eritreans have appropriated colonial architecture and encounter it without prejudice. They discover the touristic potential of their colonial heritage, but also use the icon for their own ‘nation-building-project’. Asmara thus becomes a paradigmatic place for the conservation of a ‘modernist program’ in a postmodern world. It is not only the ensemble that has been preserved, as in a time bubble, but also a ‘programme’ that contains the ‘fatal potential of modernity.’ It is no longer just a matter of complaining about one’s own ‘European heritage,’ but of complex forms of intersection of urbanism, militarism and biopolitics in which the historical parameters of the city are in conflict. Asmara is not only an archive of memories, but an event that repeats itself.
The project does not stop here. It illuminates the manifold strategies of appropriating space. In addition to official planning, there are strategies that develop from the ‘urbanism of everyday life’ and show how people can find creative uses for the unique architecture of their city despite difficult conditions.
A research project by Bart Lootsma and Peter Volgger, funded by the FWF.

Asmara Archive / Stefan Graf & Peter Volgger

‚Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, has one of the largest collections of modernist architecture in the world (…) which, (…) approaches the significance of cities as Tel Aviv, South Beach (…) or New Zealand’s Napier. The rediscovery of Modernism in Asmara offers the opportunity to observe the urban and architectonic qualities and potentials oft he […]

The Sleeping Beauty / Peter Volgger

Asmara contains one of the largest, enclosed ensembles of modernist architecture and might therefore gain the status of a World Heritage Site. It illuminates the urban transfiguration of the colonial dilemma and thus that of every European city. On the one hand we can hence investigate this architectural ensemble, as time seems to have stood […]

Interview Thomas Tedros / Peter Volgger & Stefan Graf

Thomas Tedros is an Eritrean tour operator and travel agent. He organises travels to Asmara and Eritrea for groups and individuals from all over the world. He talks with Peter Volgger about the tourism business, history and touristical sights in Eritrea and explains what it means to live and work in Asmara. Thomas Tedros was […]

The Asmara Factory / Peter Volgger

During our fieldwork trip to Asmara in March 2013 funded by the current FWF-project, we were able to visit the city’s archive. Due to present political conditions it is an unique opportunity to get at these collections. The archive has an impressive collection of plans of built and even unrealised (!) projects, which gives insight […]

Interview Medhanie Teklemariam / Peter Volgger & Stefan Graf

Medhanie Teklemariam is an Eritrean urban planner, the coordinator of the Asmara heritage programe and the head of the DoI (Department Infrastructural Services Zoba Maekel, Asmara, Eritrea).

The Sleeping Beauty – Impressum / Peter Volgger

The Project ‘The Sleeping Beauty. Architecture and Bio Politics’ is supported by the Austrian Fonds for Supporting Scientific Research (Österreichischer Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung – FWF).