University of Florida Homepage

Brenda Chalfin

Department of Anthropology and Center for African Studies
2009-2010 Library Enhancement Grant

Dr. Brenda Chalfin was awarded a Library Enhancement Grant to extend UF’s archives of African Studies by compiling architectural, planning, and housing records from Ghana’s midcentury planned city of Tema. The grant funded digital photographic documentation of urban planning materials dealing with the creation and conception of Tema including maps, blue prints, photos, marketing materials, correspondence, and public records from Ghana’s independence in 1957 to the present day in the collection of the Tema Development Corporation (TDC). This grant contributes important materials and records from a cornerstone planned city at the heart of 20th century African modernism.

The port city Tema is among a handful of fully planned mid-twentieth century cities in the developing world. Comparable to Brazil’s capital Brasilia designed by Oscar Neimeyer and India’s city of Chandigargh designed by modernist master Corbusier, Tema’s construction and design grew out of the close relationship between Ghana’s first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and an international team of led by Greek urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis. A founding member of UN Habitat, Doxiadis used his experience in Tema to perfect a model that he would also implement in Pakistan’s new capital of Islamabad, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh, and Dhaka in Bangladesh. The city at the same time embodied Nkrumah’s vision for a fully modernized Africa integrated into the world market and boasting middle class living standards and a well-developed industrial base. Reflecting these ideals, Tema contains an industrial zone and shipping harbor along with dozens of residential neighborhoods, each appointed with schools, recreation areas, commercial centers, and fully serviced with water, electricity, road ways and sewers. Built to house Ghanaians of all backgrounds from all regions of the country along with expatriates, the city embodied a progressive vision for independent Africa. Remarkably, despite the size, cost and complexities of building and resettlement, the city plan was executed in its entirety and remains largely intact today.

The collection compiled by Chalfin with the assistance of Ms. Marina Ofei Nkansah and TDC Public Relations staff details the combined influence of Soviet-styled industrialism, American suburban-planning, and the British New Town movement on Tema’s building, design, and management. The architectural drawings indicate the hand of a highly international group of draftsmen hailing from Ghana, Nigeria, Greece, Hungary, US, and UK. Urban planning and administration materials demonstrate the rise of a new class of African professionals dedicated to urban management and the cultivation of their own cosmopolitan tastes and lifestyles. Site plans detail common patterns across Tema’s many communities along with modifications undertaken by residents to accommodate the realities of urban life over and above architectural ideals.

These online, open access, primary resources are critical scholars of African Studies and urban planning and development. Access is enhanced through descriptive metadata created by Felicity Tackey-Otoo, a Ghanaian graduate student at UF’s Rinker School of Construction Management. More broadly, the study of Tema’s architectural history will enable scholars to develop solutions to the current problem of urban growth in Africa and developing nations around the world.

The Tema Development Corporation research collection is available with direct access in the University of Florida Digital Collections and African Studies Collections.