Tema-village (Tema Manhean), Ghana, Africa
Year1952latitude: 5° 39'
longitude: 0° 1'
Planning organization
Nationality initiator(s)UK
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Maxwell Fry
Jane Drew
Design organization
Target population2,000
Town website
Town related links
Literature- S. Hitchins (ed.), Fry Drew Knight Creamer Architecture, London 1978
- C.A. Doxiadis, Ekistics. An introduction to the science of human settlements, p.475-479
- G.W. Amarteifio, D.A.P. Butcher, David Whitham, 'Tema Manhean, A Study of Resettlement', Accra 1966
- M. Provoost, Tema Manhean, DASH Global Housing 2016

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
Tema Manhean Masterplan
source: G.W. Amartefeio e.a., Tema Manhean, A Study of Resettlement, Accra 1966

Tema Manhean
In 1952, when Kwame Nkrumah was chosen president of what was then the English colony of the Gold Coast, the decision was taken to build a brand new harbour as part of the ambitious Volta River Scheme. For the relocation of Tema village, the small fishing village that stood in the way of the new development and needed to be demolished for the new CBD, the English office of Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew and Denys Lasdun was engaged.
Fry & Drew had developed a hands-on approach, working in cooperation with African chiefs, which can be characterized as social and participatory. In Tema, they started mapping the existing fishing village spatially and socially, and examined the cultural traditions and the social structure.
It was decided to build a new village instead of incorporating the villagers in the new city Tema, so they could keep their own identity while still improving their living environment. This decision caused a serious dilemma: because of its authenticity the tribe was condemned to remain an enclave of traditional living while next door in Tema modern progress unfolded in all its attractiveness.
The process initiated for the resettlement of the Tema villagers was remarkable, since it involved participation of the residents to a degree uncommon at that time, also in Europe. The main problems the architects encountered had to do with the power structure within the village and conflicting interests of residents; discussions on identity, respect, individual vs. collective interests, social structure and last but not least money. It took 7 years and some bulldozers to convince the whole community to move.

After an initial plan which was rejected by the villagers, Fry and Drew designed the new village based on the hierarchical organization model of an English New Town. It consists of four neighborhoods and one central area; functions are zoned. Placed in the centre were all the institutions of the modern welfare village: the schools, shops, schools and a marketplace, as well as the chief’s palace and a fish smoking area.
The houses were designed to accommodate traditional compound style living with extended families, and were flexible, so families could extend the number of rooms themselves. The houses consisted of a series of repeating standard types of circular, rectangular, diamond, and star shaped compounds. A sanitary block with toilets, centrally located in the neighbourhood, was shared by two or three compounds (160-600 people).
The original design of the houses, of which a prototype had been built, contained a flat roof. Since the villagers deemed this to be ‘only fit for pigeons’ and not dignified enough, the design was changed into pitched roofs.

While improving the basic conditions of water supply, washing, cooking, storage, latrines and hygiene, Fry and Drew also respected the traditional family structures and housing habits, and included social elements in housing like the veranda. In vain they tried to maintain the indigenous building traditions; the houses were constructed in sandcrete blocks and corrugated steel roofs.

However sensitive, the rather formal design of the village was not suited to all Ghanese habits, for instance the one to run a small shop from the house. Fry & Drew had designed basically four living quarters. But local culture could not be denied: everywhere small shops were popping up, right from the start.
Also the inhabitants were disappointed by their ‘authentic’ living: the houses in Tema Manhean were just as expensive as those built in Tema, but as traditional African village they lacked electricity, bathroom and running water inside the house.

By now, Fry & Drew’s creation, has become a slum. The choice to respect Tema village as an autonomous entity to safeguard the identity of the villagers has made the area into a ghetto: living circumstances are worse, housing and amenities are cheaper and less attractive than in Tema. The houses by Fry & Drew are hardly recognizable between the many extensions and ‘illegal’ buildings erected between, above and around them. It is a poor, polluted area, cramped in by industry, looking at next-door neighbour Tema, where everything seems better and more hopeful.

source: Michelle Provoost

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