Time for a New Capital City

Recent new planned capitals I can think of include ones in Burma (Naypyidaw), Nigeria (Abuja), Ivory Coast, Astana in Kazakhstan. Brasilia is probably the best known. Hitler planned to replace Berlin with Germania once he had won the war. Mostly, they seem to be associated with dictatorial rule. (Though, earlier the British empire produced New Delhi and Canberra).

Despite being linked to despots, planned capitals are fascinating as exercises in design. It would be interesting to work out which has been a success and which a failure, and why.

Now, to add to the list: thanks to oil money Equatorial Guinea is building a new capital in the middle of the tropical forest.

The library of the new International University of Central Africa resembles a space ship docked in a jungle clearing. This is only a small part of President Teodoro Obiang’s ambition to build an entirely new multi-billion-pound capital by 2020, to be called Oyala.

Down a new six-lane highway, dubbed the ‘Avenue of Justice’, Oyala’s first luxury hotel is taking shape at a cost of £250 million. A golf course has already been carved out of the virgin forest.

Mr Obiang himself is a frequent visitor to the construction sites, causing one university building to be moved because he disapproved of the view.

Within a decade, Oyala will house the president, the government and – according to the master plan – up to 200,000 people. The money will come from Equatorial Guinea’s 1.7 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

Where the new capital will find its inhabitants is harder to understand. The population of the entire country is only 700,000 and the vast majority live far away on the Atlantic coast.

Stephen Sackur (BBC, Telegraph)

Wikipedia has a couple of lists of planned cities here and here.


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