Author: Victoria Gin

Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale, AZ, like other planned suburbs, created a sense of community and collaboration by forming a framework for partnership between residents, businesses, and the city of Phoenix. Scottsdale is more than a collection of residential buildings – it has personality. For instance, it holds an annual Parada del Sol celebration and has architectural influences by Frank Lloyd Wright. However, due to the many opportunities, there was a boom in population that overwhelmed the suburb which drove prices to increase and forced lower income families to leave. Suburbs were originally built for the bourgeoisie; Scottsdale is no different – it is well-known to have an upscale reputation. There is room for improvement, but Scottsdale is a classic example of a suburb that offers a low crime, safe suburban area, good education system, and great place to raise a family.

Pine Hills, Florida

Pine Hills is a planned suburb in Orlando, Florida.  Built in the 1950s to house defense industry employees, this suburb was constructed to the same cookie-cutter standards as its peers and promoted by local authorities as a vision of the modern American Dream – albeit a very restrictive version.  Efforts by Orlando to annex Pine Hills in the 1980s lead to a wave a white flight that made it one of Orlando’s poorest areas.  Hit with worsening crime, many businesses have fled and residents struggle to adjust an area designed for a middle class bedroom community to their needs.

Tapiola, Finland

Tapiola, established in 1951 and located west of Helsinki, is a planned suburb designed by a number of prominent Finnish architects including Alvar Aalto. Much like Howard, this group of architects believed there to be a functional limit to both the area and the population of the city, and so the suburb was planned to house 26 residents perf acre and no more than 15,000 in total. The suburb, planned to be self-contained, was also designed to accommodate a range of income levels, mixing various types of residential units and building densities. Today, Tapiola serves as a reminder that planned suburbs are not necessarily always monotonous, single-class entities. Instead, they can represent experimental ways of living — together and with nature.

Toronto: Natural Beauty buried under the Colonial Grid

The colonial grid planned by the British in colonial North America took hold in a severe iteration in the late 18th century in the area of what is now Toronto, Canada. The British sought to maintain greater geographic control after their loss of the Thirteen Colonies to the south, resulting in a tightly planned and imposed grid by British land surveyors, a grid that ignored the natural beauty and topography of the area. Toronto’s general topography drops in elevation from north to south but historically it was incised at intervals by undulating ravines of the nine rivers flowing southward into Lake Ontario. The colonial grid imposed by the British was the initial step toward the disappearance of many of those ravines, first by building the bridges that spanned them to define the grid, then by filling them with industrial refuse and culverting the rivers that flowed through them. Later still in the 20th century, the significant ravine in this picture was almost levelled by displaced soil from urban expansion and subway construction, sometimes entirely erasing the natural undulating topography in favor of the grid. Garrison Creek, the stream running through this part of the city, is still flowing below grade in a series of large sewers below the green spaces in the photo.

Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa

First imagined in 1919, Pinelands saw its earliest inhabitants move into the area less than 3 years later. This Garden City was to be erected as a means for decentralizing the population of Cape Town, which had been plagued by the Spanish Flu around this time. The creator of Pinelands, Richard Stuttaford, was inspired to design this sub development after the Garden Cities in England after speaking with Ebenezer Howard. Stuttaford envisioned a suburb of Cape Town that would grant the affluent members of the city to live in peace among the amenities of a major city as well as the refreshing beauty of the natural environment. In this condensed borough (2.26 sq mi.) there are nearly 15,000 inhabitants, yet despite the population density, the town is very open. These inhabitants have access to over 30 parks within the city limits and very few man-made structures exceed 4 stories. This allows the inhabitants a chance to enjoy the view of their ideal community as well as the looming Tabletop Mountain to the south. Stuttaford’s goal was to develop entire suburbs. In Pinelands he managed to construct better houses/public buildings while simultaneously nurturing the education of equality by providing high-quality school halls to address the decades of racial inequality in South Africa.

Mariemont, OH

Mariemont exhibits many of the physical traits of a Garden City, but falls short of the original egalitarian intentions of the movement itself. The large spacing between houses, well planted streets, and lower density, coupled with a lack of industrial self sufficiency (the town is functionally a suburb, despite the limited commercial development at its core) have created an area that insulates itself from the rest of the city fabric. It is this lack of self-sufficiency itself that contradicts the original vision of the Garden City as a self contained unit. Ironically, this economic dependence on Cincinnati, the closest major city, might have been inevitable given Mariemont’s location, since the “economic gravity” of the city and the advantages of centrality for manufacturing and distribution economies would provide a strong incentive to keep the community largely residential. Mariemont is overwhelmingly white, 95% in a city that is 45% African-American, and median incomes are higher than surrounding areas as well. It appears that the Garden City works wonderfully, but only for those that have the means to “escape” the “evils” of the urban area to it, contradicting the original vision and concept of the town-country for all.

Stains, France

Stains, France is a Garden City developed in the 1920s. The City was meant to be a low-cost alternative to crowded, and terraced housing for the post-war working class, and includes a commercial center, housing estates, mixed in with green spaces. As the years passed, Stains, France accommodated more modern buildings and infrastructure but effort was taken to keep its history intact. Today, Seine-Saint-Denis, the department in which Stains is located, has higher than average poverty and unemployment rates, yet Stains remains a popular tourist destination and historical heritage. Stains demonstrates that low-cost housing does not necessarily mean crowded or uncomfortable housing.

Image source – Google Earth
Facts source –,,

Canberra, Australia

Canberra, Australia was founded in 1913 as an entirely planned city. It was heavily influenced by the garden city movement and it stands as a monument to that form of design. It contains significant areas of vegetation— well managed public parks, and a network of gardens and open spaces. The city distinctly separates residential, civic, and industrial areas into districts, providing an easygoing and well-organized life for its citizens. All of the districts encircle the Parliamentary Triangle in the center of Canberra which acts as the political and economic focal point for the city. Today, Canberra stands as a modern testament to the genius and permanence of the garden city movement.

Park Güell, Barcelona

Park Güell is a famous public park in Barcelona. Eusebi Güell was a businessman who got inspired by the British garden-city movement and assigned Gaudi to design a housing site in this style. The initial plan was intended to have 64 villas and communal spaces amid parks and far away from the overcrowded, smoky city center. Yet, the former remoteness of its location discouraged potential buyers, and the only two built houses were bought by Gaudi and Güell. Nowadays, it is a public park more so in the city center, and the two villas transformed into a school and a museum.

Rosyth, Scotland

Rosyth was built by the Scottish National Housing Company in 1915 following the start of construction on the Rosyth Dockyard. Inspired by Ebenezer Howard’s garden city principles, Rosyth was largely self-contained, with nearby allotments, lots of public greenery, and low-density housing. However, Rosyth’s planners struggled to obtain continued government funding for the project, especially once another plan was submitted to provide housing to dockworkers at a much higher yearly rent. When the dockyard temporarily closed following the end of World War I, effectively eliminating most of Rosyth’s industry and potential residents, construction on the garden city plans came to a halt. Ultimately, Rosyth’s idealistic founding principles were not enough to attract consistent funding, especially when competing against less limiting, more profitable alternatives.

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