New Bussa, Nigeria, Africa
Year1962latitude: 9° 52'
longitude: 4° 31'
Planning organization
Nationality initiator(s)
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Maxwell Fry
Jane Drew
Design organizationFry, Drew and Atkinson
Inhabitants24,000 (2007)
Target population3,000
Town website
Town related links
Literature- Brian C. Smith, New Bussa, a New Town on the Niger, Urban Studies 1967 june, nr. 4:2, p.149-164

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
The new Bussa was designed and built in the sixties to replace the old Bussa, the location of which has completely disappeared under water as a result of the construction of the Kainji dam, serving a hydroelectric plant. An amazing number of 192 vilages along the banks of the river Niger had to be replaced, involving the resettlement of about 40.000 inhabitants. In Old Bussa there were only 3000 people, still it was an important city as it was the capital of Borgu, the largest Emirate in the province, as well as a market town and a centre for trading and crafts.

The Kainji project was seen as the cornerstone of Nigerian modernization. The hydro-electricity was to allow for the development of agriculture, industry and fishing, and the regulation of the river.

The new Bussa was built at a different site, 7 miles from the river, mainly for reasons of health: a high location, relatively free from disease carrying insects (mosquitoes, tsetsefly and black fly).
Firstly, the construction camp (in fact a complete town) for the European and Nigerian workers of the dam was built on this location. Then, the new town was built in the middle of this construction camp. 'An earlier intention to rehouse the Bussawa (people of Bussa) in the vacated junior construction camp blocks on completion of the project was rejected on the grounds that a model new town was more consistent with the national progress symbolized by the dam and the future of new Bussa as a tourist centre." (Smith)
New Bussa being in the middle of a complete camp with urban amenities as a catholic church, a cinema and a number of shops, the Bussawa had the advantage of being able to use alll these facilities, on the other hand they regarded the camp as a 'New Lagos', a negative term referring to the busy, multi-ethnic and lowerclass atmosphere in the camp.

The camp in Bussa had excellent infrastructure compared to the Old Bussa: telephone, sewage, tarmac roads, water and electricity as well as a post office and a hospital. The design of the town was based on the traditional layout of Nigerian muslim cities. The palace of the Emir was in a central location, not overlooked by any compound in the settlement. Apart from the palace also the most important buildings (mosque and administration building) are located in the highest position. The houses are organized in 256 compunds for extended families, and consist of separate huts with a walled enclosure. The compounds are placed in a grid, so there was uniformity in size, while allowing for setbacks and variation to avoid monotony. Rather high density and little space inbetween the compunds. Smith:"The total effect of the residential areas is of an ordered and efficient use of land, producing a compact settlement centred on the principal religious and administrative buildings, and a vast improvement on the 'soulless' new villages of the Aswan scheme".

Due to political decisions and haste, the decision was made to plan each compound for 10 people, though it was clear from experiences with the old Bussa-scheme that this would definitely be too small. A large number of compounds had to be realized in a rather short time. Therefore the contractors chose to use modern rather than indigenous or traditional materials and methods. Smith: "The use of mud and thatch was not found to be an economic proposition and consequently the materials as well as the design of the new town departed considerably from the old". Also for economic reasons the architects chose to make the roofs from asbestos cement sheets (golfplaat).

The compounds in New Bussa are graded into four categories:
-256 low cost units were built for the farmers, traders and artisans, average area 3600 square feet, surrounded by a six foot wall. Rectangular huts, with one main hut, wives' quarters and latrines, connected to water and sewage, not electricity. Buildings made of hollow concrete blocks with a spray plaster to give a mud-like finish. Only the doors are made of timber, roofing is asbestos.
-Twelve large residences are built for the Emir's councellors, larger and higher than the low cost units, but based on the same principles.
-One large compound for the Emirs eldest son
-The Emirs palace, modern design reconciled with tradition, made out of concrete, separate quarters for wives and servants, a school and a burial ground and all amenities including showers and electricity.
Around the market place: the administrative building, mosque with 60 feet tower and court. Other facilities, schools and shops were planned.

There were a number of signs that the resettlement of Bussawa would produce some social dislocation. The Bussawa were primarily farmers and in their new location there was insufficient agricultural land, at least not suited to grow the crops the farmers were used to. The government had promised to compensate for land lost, but how was an unanswered question. The rectangular houses were popular among the Hausa in Northern Nigeria, but unfortunately the Bussawa were mostly Bucanci, and accustomed to a circular mud hut with a thatch roof contained within a fence! The contrast with the intensely hot, flat-roofed houses of New Bussa couldn't be greater. Because the new compounds were built for 10 people each, the resettlement involved splitting up extended families (known to be as big as 42 people). It was also felt that while they are too small, they stand too close together. A number of Bussawa had moved already to other places, not liking the New Bussa. It is anticipated that the fishemen of Bussa will build their own settlements on the lakeside. The Emir has however approved of the new Bussa. Smith: The new settlement implied a radical change of living conditions for most Bussawa, this should have been taken into account (even if the new conditions appear to the outsider to be vastly superior). He is very critical of the resettlement scheme because of the lack of concern for the local populations needs and wishes. It should have been consistent with local customs and ensure future prosperity for the locals to be lured to the new city.
It is also clear that from a western point of town planning and administration, almost everything is lacking: plans, structure, mandate, government, organisation, etc. Who built and paid for the city is not exactly clear, but the national electricity company was involved, along with undoubtely a number of international aid-organisations.

So even though the compounds presented a bottom-up, vernacular image, they were not, neither in materials, building method, organisation, housing typology, or local economic and social traditions.

The Aga Khan site gives the following, slightly different, background information on the total resettlement-project of the Kainji dam:
"Divided into 4 groups: urban, semi-urban, semi-rural and rural, 121 new settlements were planned to replace a former total of 192. Those involved were able to select their new sites. The site layout, density, massing and architectural aesthetic of each new settlement was inspired by the settlements' former environments. Each family was provided with a compound of the same size and an equal number of rooms to their previous dwelling (including a reception area, rooms for the family, a kitchen, and WC.).

Consideration was given and research made on the cultural and social characterics of those involved, such that both community and family organisation were respected and maintained. In addition, the design of compounds was such that extensions or modifications could easily be made."


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