Whether you like it or not, a massive 5,000-seat national cathedral is being built smack dab in the center of Accra. President Akufo-Addo announced his decision to build it earlier this year, and some have applauded the decision, hailing the new piece of architecture as a “huge deal. It signals that the country is poised to consolidate the gains of decades of democracy,” wrote Chika Okeke-Agulu, a Princeton professor for The New York Times.
Sure, a national cathedral would boost Ghana’s economy. It would revitalize the nation’s landscape and leave a hefty footprint on the continent. But there are holes. Who’s funding it? When will construction begin? How long will it last? And traffic. How will that be impacted? First, let’s explore what we do know.
As it stands, the new building will stretch alongside the Osu Cemetery and takeover land holding the Ridge roundabout, the Scholarship Secretariat, the Judicial Training Institute, the Passport Office and the residences of nine judges. All of those buildings would be demolished and relocated elsewhere.
Reports revealed that some of the judges have complained about the manner in which they were told to vacate their homes. According to Joy News, the judges were given an oral notice to vacate their premises in exchange for money.
Joy News’ Samson Lardy suggested on Newsfile Saturday that the cathedral should be built on vacant land.
“These fresh naked lands are not suited for our cathedral. We won't go anywhere else if you like go burn the sea,” Lardy wrote in a Facebook post.
But the former Lands and Natural Resources Minister, John Peter Amewu, refuted those claims and said they were very strategic about where they planned to build. On Monday, he told Joy FM that “we’re looking for a very prime area that will fit the status of the kind of building that the committee envisaged.”
The national cathedral will be surrounded by more than five hectares of landscaped gardens, will serve as a place of worship and a community hub that will encompass several chapels, a baptistery, a school, an art gallery and Africa’s first bible museum.
The building’s concept will infuse religion, democracy and tradition with heavy emphasis on Ghanaian culture. The design will include high ceilings, a breathtaking concave roof with sweeping stairs leading up to a timber entrance.
Local designers have been hired to decorate the cathedral’s interior. A new ceremonial route will link the cathedral to Accra’s State House and Independence Square.
Ghanaian-British David Adjaye, 51, will spearhead the project. His development firm, Adjaye Associates will collaborate with government to build the cathedral.
"It is an immense honour to be granted the opportunity to contribute something of this scale and import to my home country," Adjaye said on the Dezeen website earlier this year. "I have sought to craft a building that not only understands its landscape, but one that will be unique to Accra and the Ghanaian nation."
The firm is headquartered in London with other offices in New York and a new branch opening in Accra. Adjaye has worked on architectural designs in North America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, including One Berkeley Street, a £600 million residential project in London’s prestigious Piccadilly area.
Neither the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources nor Adjaye Associates commented on the cost of the project. It is also unclear which sector will cover the costs and/or if it will be funded by taxpayers.
No details are available on when the project will commence and how long it will be until completion. But take note, The Washington National Cathedral in the United States’ capital took 83 years to build. So don’t hold your breath.