Tema, Ghana, Africa
Year1960latitude: 5° 39'
longitude: -0° 0'
Planning organizationTema Development Corporation
Nationality initiator(s)
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Constantinos Doxiadis
Design organizationDoxiadis Associates
Inhabitants161,000 (2013)
Target population250,000
Town websitehttp://www.tdctema.org/
Town related linkshttp://www.ghanaweb.com/
Literature- S. Hitchins (ed.), Fry Drew Knight Creamer Architecture, London 1978
- Doxiadis Ass., Accra-Tema-Akosombo Regional Development in Ghana, monthly bulletin nr.20, dec.1960
- Doxiadis Ass., Tema The New Town, monthly bulletin nr.40, nov.1961
- C.A. Doxiadis, Ekistics. An Introduction to the Science of Human Settlements, New York 1968
- M. Provoost, Tema, DASH Global Housing 2016

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy

Kaiserflats, 2007
source: Michelle Provoost

Experimental Housing Types Community IV
source: Constantinos A. Doxiadis Archives

Low and middle-low income housing, Community 7
source: Constantinos A. Doxiadis Archives

Row houses, Community 4, 2007
source: M. Provoost

Masterplan Tema
source: Constantinos A. Doxiadis Archives

When the decision to build Tema harbour was made, also the building of a new city became necessary. An English planning team started in the fifties, but with their carefully designed, winding road patterns they didn’t provide the fast pace and the rational image that Nkrumah was after. In 1960 he hired the Greek planner Constantinos Doxiadis to speed and scale things up and rationalize the urban plan.
His plan for Tema was based on a mathematical system which was rigidly hierarchical, with roads in eight different classes ranging from the footpath connecting the houses (Road I) to the highway (Road VIII) and residential areas ranging from a small cluster of houses (Community Class I) to the city as a whole (CC V) and even to the larger scale of the metropolitan region (CC VI).
The familiar hierarchical order of the English New Towns was being fully blown up in scale. Doxiadis systematized and took all whimsicalities and irregularities out of the existing urban plan. The first two (already built) Communities of Tema were incorporated in an orthogonal grid of main roads, which delineated a series of identical, numbered Communities Class IV, each with their own centre, including shops, higher schools and government buildings. Every Community was divided into four smaller parts (CC III), again each with their own centre containing daily shops and primary schools. The direction of the urban grid was slightly diagonal, adjusted to profit from the prevailing direction of the wind.

One of the most important goals of Doxiadis was to facilitate social cohesion within the Communities; a necessary goal in a country which still had many differences and feuds between tribes and also necessary for a city in which every inhabitant was a newcomer without existing social structures to fall back on. Therefore the design of public buildings and public space was a priority. All these were carefully standardized: the schools, the marketplaces and the government institutions, as well as the roads, paths and squares, along with the planting and trees along them.
While the city was indeed meant for a mix of incomes, these were hardly ever mixed within each community; low incomes were concentrated next to the industrial zone and along the highway, while the highest incomes were housed along the green areas and lagoons. Doxiadis also provided for the lowest incomes by including areas (Community 9) in which migrants could build their own house. It was an example of ‘sites and services’, the approach made popular in the seventies by John Turner, the British architect who advocated self-organized building.

The development of the housing types shows how Doxiadis rejected the compound house; in the many series of experimental houses he developed for Community 4, there were bungalows, row houses, apartment buildings and every variation possible was tested, but they were all geared to the modern, nuclear family. Different from Fry & Drew, who accepted the local housing habits, he (like Nkrumah) decided the extended family unfit for a modern industrialized society.

The unlikely image of Doxiadis’ city was that of nicely designed, English style suburban row houses with gardens, lived in by immigrants from different tribes, working in industry; it was an anxious, dynamic industrial metropolis designed as a suburban pastoral. But Doxiadis’ sketches also show he was not romanticizing: it would also be noisy, lively and even sordid. And that is exactly what happened.
Today, the city of Tema doesn’t look like a clean English garden city anymore. The modernist row houses are hidden behind self-built rooms and shops and the wide streets are lined with illegal kiosks. Though not intended this way, the New Town still takes advantage of the unusual amount of open space that was originally designed. Also the institutions that were planned, schools, hospitals, churches and community centres, function well and are widely and actively used. Tema is regarded in Ghana as a desirable place to live. The city seems to turn into a haven for the middle class, and plans to redevelop the first public housing areas by substituting them with commercial housing.

source: Michelle Provoost

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