This article will help readers learn in-depth about Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities. The article opens by describing one of the influential urban planning movements across the globe; the Garden City Movement started by Howard through his publication named To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898). Through this article, one would comprehend the concept and the idea, principles, components, purpose and importance of Garden Cities. The article also covers the components and failures of a typical Garden City.

Garden City Movement 

Sir Ebenezer Howard, through his publication called Garden Cities of To-morrow (1898), communicated the concept of Garden Cities to the world. In his publication, Howard describes Garden City as a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together with nature. The publication with self-explained illustrations resulted in the initiation of the Garden City Movement. The movement gradually became popular across the globe and became one of the most influential urban planning models. Several world popular urban planning concepts are based on Howard’s Garden City concept of independent small towns surrounded by greenbelts which offered all pros of a country and city. The movement in Britain led to the establishment of Letchworth and Hertfordshire in 1903; to date, the only settlements formed exactly on Howard’s concept. 

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Potrait of Sir Ebenezer Howard _©HALS

Concept and Idea

Howard proposed the idea and concept of the Garden Cities through his famous illustration of Three Magnets. The illustration detailed out pros and cons of both a Town and Country and proposed a sustainable third category and need of the hour, a Town-Country or Garden City. 

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Howard’s popular 3 magnets diagram in his publication  _©Sir Ebenezer Howard

The Town-Country, as the name suggests, was a combination of both town and countryside. This new settlement style was conceived with the aim of providing benefits for both the Town (such as opportunity, amusement and good wages) and the Country (such as beauty, fresh air and low rents) and the disadvantages of neither. The new settlement was the need of the hour as Industrialization led to the formation of industrial cities with issues like urban poverty, overcrowding, low wages, dirty alleys with no drainage, poorly ventilated houses, toxic substances, dust, carbon gasses, infectious disease and lack of interaction with nature.

Characteristics 

Size Limitation: The growth of towns is limited so that their inhabitants may not experience problems like high rent, polluted environment, overcrowding, etc. Whenever the city reaches its maximum capacity, a new settlement on the same principles around the main Garden City will be formed.

Amenities: The planning of cities is such that it ensures gardens, adequate space for schools and other functional purposes are equally accessible by all, along with pleasant parks and parkways.

Controlled Planning: Pre-planed framework of the town including the landscape garden design, functional zoning, the fixing of maximum density, controlled design of structures, skilful planting and road scheme.

Hence, the Garden Cities would have 1000 acres of towns designed for healthy living and industry and 5000 acres of permanent green belt which surrounds the whole town with a density of 12 families per acre. 

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Howard’s diagram of Garden City_©Sir Ebenezer Howard

Components of Garden City 

Central Park

As the name suggests, the park is supposed to be located in the centre of the city, comprising a green space with public buildings such as a town hall, concert and lecture hall, theatre, library, museum, gallery and hospital around it. 

Avenues, Boulevards and Roads

These are the main structural elements of the Garden City which become the spines and connect every element into one integrated and compact city with easy commuting access.

Outer Ring

The outer ring brings the industrial element to the city which primarily offers employment to the residents. The outer ring ensures people work in an industrial area but with a beautiful countryside atmosphere. The outer ring is connected with a circle railway which ensures easy commuting and boosts efficiency. 

Green Space: Green Belt, Park & Tree-Lined Street

The Garden City promises a new way of working in a productive industrial city while still enjoying the beautiful scenery of the countryside through strictly sustainably planned green belts, parks, and houses with access to gardens and avenues and boulevards with lush green trees and shrubs.

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Howard’s detailed diagram of Garden City_©Sir Ebenezer Howard
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Howard’s diagram of grouped Garden City_©Sir Ebenezer Howard

Failure of Garden City 

Letchworth Garden City is situated in the county of Hertfordshire, England, and is the world’s first Garden City. Commonly known as Letchworth was created envisioning as a solution to the squalor and poverty of urban life in Britain in the late 19th Century. During the initial years, Letchworth gradually attracted more residents by offering low taxes, low rents and more space. Despite Howard’s best efforts, with changing times, the home prices in this garden city could not remain affordable for the working class. Many would view Letchworth as a success, but it did not immediately inspire government investment in the next line of garden cities. Due to this, Howard bought land at Welwyn to house the second garden city in 1919. As a result, The Welwyn Garden City Corporation was established to oversee the new Garden City’s construction. Situated just 20 miles away from London, Welwyn failed to become a self-sustaining community and city. 

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Letchworth’s advertisement poster_©cltroots.org
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Welwyn’s advertisement poster_©cltroots.org

Citations 

  1. issuu.com. (n.d.). Understanding the Concept of the Garden City and its Legacies by Evan Kriswandi Soendjojo – Issuu. [online] Available at: https://issuu.com/evankriswandi/docs/arch9068_portfolio_-_470149762s [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022].
  2. ‌admin (2020). Garden City Movement by Sir Ebenezer Howard | Planning Tank. [online] planningtank.com. Available at: https://planningtank.com/planning-theory/garden-city-movement.
  3. RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2022). Ebenezer Howard: Ideology and Philosophy. [online] Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/know-your-architects/a7576-ebenezer-howard-ideology-and-philosophy/ [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022].
Author

Ujjwal is a design enthusiast who is currently studying to be an architect. He is passionate about researching, exploring, documenting and writing about various fields of art, architecture and design.

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