Author: Daria Aksenova


Väike-Õismäe is an Estonian neighborhood build in the 1970s. Väike-Oismäe is built in the fashion of Soviet microrayons, which allowed architects to plan rapidly developing urban complexes more efficiently for the purpose of creating collective societies. Residents were usually provided with free rooms or flats. Due to the high building costs of such «free» complexes, microrayons were often grouped into larger urban zones. Thus, Väike-Õismäe actually consists of several microrayons and has a population of 27,481. Microrayons provided only absolutely necessary facilities (kindergartens, grocery shops), but all other services were shared by the bigger residential areas. Such merging was accompanied by the reduction of the apartment buildings’ quality, creating homogeneous grey masses of panel-blocks all over the Soviet Union.

Rinkeby, Stockholm, Sweden

Rinkeby is a neighborhood in Stockholm, Sweden that was part of the Million Program, the public housing program implemented in Sweden in 1965 to make sure everyone could have a home in a neighborhood community at a reasonable price. Rinkeby and other neighborhoods in the program were implemented as a way to decrease the population density due to Stockholm’s urban congestion. Larger than Perry’s conception of a neighborhood at 19,000 inhabitants in 2016, it is an expanded neighborhood focused on providing social facilities and services, as seen in its range of schools, public spaces, libraries, and meeting places.

An attempt to address social segregation issues raised by neighborhood units, it’s principal aim was to mix and integrate different groups of immigrant households through the spatial mixing of tenures. However, its failure is an example of the issues raised with using neighborhoods as the basis for public housing projects – Rinkeby is isolated and cut off from other neighborhoods, an island of crime and breeze-block flats.

Caoyang New Village, Shanghai

Located in the Putuo District of Shanghai, Caoyang New Village was established in 1951 as one of China’s first implementations of the neighborhood unit. It grew out of increased demand for improved homes for the working and lower class— which was a principal concern of the Communist government at the time. Unlike most neighborhoods that tend to target the upper/middle class, the Caoyang New village was designed to house lower class citizens. However, it still paid close attention to its design and incorporated schools, social facilities, and vegetated areas into its plan. Unfortunately in the years following, new additions to Caoyang New Village were done hastily and were poorly constructed which ultimately resulted in many of the buildings needing to be taken down. What resulted from this was an assortment of buildings with varying sizes and construction styles— many of which are unable to be remodeled after it was named a heritage site in 2017. This currently remains one of the neighborhood’s biggest challenges as it is effectively frozen in time inside the rapidly modernizing city of Shanghai.

Greendale, WI

Greendale, Wisconsin was built as part of FDR’s “Greenbelt” project in the 1930s. It was built as a suburb of Milwaukee, for the purpose of housing its residents and to create construction jobs in the Great Depression. They built it on farmland, and preserved part of it as an actual “greenbelt” separating the community from downtown Milwaukee, partly so that residents would shop in their own community rather than walk to Milwaukee proper. Most of the units were single-family homes with 2-3 bedrooms and a garden space. The original plan wanted to build and sell 3,000 units, but by 1939, they only had 572 units. This meant that each unit was priced higher than originally planned for. Because of these high prices, and the fact that planners did not sell to Black people or families where both spouses worked, the population was very homogeneous, and definitely not lower-class. We can see how it adheres to Perry’s original plans, with each small subdivision of the neighborhood centered at least in part on an important building, like schools.

Shanghai French concession, China

The Shanghai French concession was an area of land in Shanghai that were governed, planed and administrated by the French government between 1849 and 1946. After rapid city redevelopments and urbanization in the 21th century, it is still very easy to identify the traces of French influence. The old western style architectures and neighborhoods are now being preserved by the city government. The area can be viewed as large neighborhood sharing one unique identity. Even until this day, the Shanghai French concessions is still a fashionable, artistic, wealthy, heavily westernized, area.

Radburn, New Jersey

Radburn, a neighborhood in New Jersey, contained as Perry wanted, a school at its center as well as roads going around rather than through the homes. Radburn’s neighborhood population was calculated by Perry’s ideal, sustaining an elementary school. Further, Radburn contained elements of Howard’s garden city with superblocks and green spaces as boundaries. A unified neighborhood, Radburn has an association meant to upkeep communal spaces and entities, which are for residents only forming a sense of community within the neighborhood. Today, Radburn remains a place where families can experience modern life “while still providing the amenities of open space, community service and economic viability”.

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Babcock Ranch, Florida

Babcock Ranch is a neighborhood unit currently being built in southwest Florida.  Created as part of a state deal to preserve much of the historic Babcock Ranch, this neighborhood is marketed as the future of green design in America.  Incorporating principles of New Urbanism, the houses are tightly clustered together and centered on communal structures.  Between lofty carbon neutral goals, a number of technology partnerships, and the preservation of over 90% of the ranch, this neighborhood looks to change the narrative of Florida’s suburban sprawl.  While still an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood, Babcock Ranch is nonetheless encouraging more sustainable design.

Georgetown, Washington, DC

Georgetown is a wealthy neighborhood in Washington, DC. Located along the Potomac River, the neighborhood maintains an architectural style, characterized by red-brick roads and row houses, and a separate grid system that is visibly distinct from the rest of D.C. Georgetown also has key cultural institutions (such as Georgetown University) and an active neighborhood association that foster a distinct cultural and political identity. The neighborhood’s rivers and parks also create a sense of distinctness by forming a flexible boundary that is prominent enough to be a spatial separator, but still easily crossed if needed.

Stevenage, United Kingdom

Stevenage, one of the British new towns built in the post-war period, highlights some of the ways in which Perry’s neighborhood unit idea was adapted. Like Perry’s ideal, the plan’s neighborhood units included ample provisions for small parks, were centered around an elementary school, and described pedestrian-oriented internal streets. Even so, their population and density of 9600 people and 31 people per acre, respectively, were greater than Perry’s and they included a central — not a peripheral — shopping area. Interestingly, despite being denser than Perry’s model, they were described as not being conducive to social activity by immediate studies (Peter Willmot, 1962). The case of Stevenage suggests that neighborhoods — in the social sense — may not be things that can be planned but rather emerge.

Medina, Washington, United States of America

Medina, Washington is a residential suburb that houses affluent executives in Fortune 500 companies and their families. Medina reflects how the ideas of the bourgeois can translate into segregated suburbia – this area rose to prosperity in the 1980s when technology brought big money to the area and large mansions were set up for executives, which hiked up the price in this area, and moved out immigrants and farmers living in low-density areas. The area currently has 24/7 surveillance by the police, and with a median home price of 2.5 million, it is socially and economically separated from Seattle. This suburb reflects the ideas of the ultra-rich in the country, separated from the urban city and technoburbs they have created for the working-class and middle-class. The more ideal setting for the rich should be intertwined with the lives of those whom they employ – there should be more social interaction between classes, and a neighborhood should have some aspect of self-sufficiency by its residents.


Pripyat’ is a planned town in the middle of Ukrainian forests. It was built next to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, as a suburb to serve the power plant and supply housing for the power plant workers. It is now a ghost-city due to the Chernobyl accident, but it has successfully operated as a town in 1973-1786. It was planned and inhabited efficiently – the center of the city contained cultural and commercial units, while the housing was surrounded by numerous parks. The streets were wide and had fast communication with the power plant. In the first few years, the population grew from 0 to 40 thousand, as people willing to live there were given free accommodation. As a lot of government resources were spent on Pripyat’, its former inhabitants report that the town was extremely comfortable and navigable, full of opportunities hardly found in other places.

Flemingdon Park, Toronto, Canada

Flemingdon Park is a planned suburb in Toronto. It was developed from farmland into an Canada’s first completely planned “apartment city” in the post-WW2 planning and population boom. Like several of the “tower in the park” developments in Toronto, the community suffers from crime and violence. Flemingdon Park was largely settled by immigrants (my parents!) and refugees because of its affordability and publicly-subsidized housing. Bordered by two ravines and a freeway, the community is relatively secluded, and is difficult to leave without a car. There is little intermixing of commerce and residential areas, with much of the stores restricted to a single mega-shopping plaza, preventing vibrant street life and entrepreneurial jobs from growing to absorb the community. The high density has caused an overcrowding in schools (with Canada’s most populous high school), and a lack of opportunities to keep young adults occupied, driving more of them into gangs and making the plentiful green space feel dangerous. Ironically, a golf course, the provincial science museum, and several white-collar office buildings are located in the community, showing that placing nice amenities without meeting the actual needs of local residents is ineffective.

Flemingdon Park is a good example of a well-intentioned suburb focused on exclusion – of the community from the city, and of the residents from community commerce – can leave residents disadvantaged.

Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States

Shaker Heights is an example of the suburb as a physical manifestation of the bourgeois rejection of the metropolis. Where Cleveland was polluted and crowded, Shaker Heights featured ample green space and carefully spaced lots. It was developed by O.P. and M.J. Sweringen, the owners of a railroad and real estate empire, who envisaged Shaker Heights as an exclusive community that was both socially and physically distanced from the big city ills of Cleveland. To that end, development was highly restricted by the “Shaker Village Standards,” which not only denoted acceptable architectural styles, but also “desirable” vs. “undesirable” residents.

Llewellyn Park, New Jersey

Llewellyn Park, NJ was a forerunner of the 19th-century shift towards suburbanization in the US. A perimeter city to New York City, and it has many properties conducive to family life that defines suburbs tradition for Robert Fishman: substantial houses set in open, tree-shaded lots with a blend of property and union with nature. In classic 19th-century suburban fashion, the city was restricted to the bourgeois elites alone. However, it diverges from Fishman’s concept of a natural development or creation of a suburb, as it was the one of the first planned suburbs in the United States. Instead of an initial, natural progression of suburbs unfolding naturally in a movement of housing, industry, and commercial development in a perimeter city, Llewellyn Park was carefully planned, even for details like the landscaping, which was designed to mimic New York City’s Central Park.

St. Kilda West, Melbourne, Australia

St. Kilda West was established as a suburb of Melbourne Australia in 1879. The area that St. Kilda West exists on was once a swamp that was drained in the 1870s to accommodate urban expansion. It is an almost exclusively residential suburb home to a diverse group of people including young professionals, singles, retirees, and families. Like most Australian suburbs, St. Kilda West also has a number of parks and vegetated areas that contribute positively to the surrounding area. However, given that St. Kilda West is exclusively residential, most of its commercial facilities (ie. Supermarkets and schools) are located in other suburbs, and it has been criticized for this in recent years as residents have to drive or take public transport for their basic necessities.

Cheremushki, Moscow, Russia

Cheremushki is a planned Soviet suburb of Moscow, Russia. Developed in the 1950s as a Soviet suburb for working-class Muscovites, it was the first of what would later become Khrushchevki, or block-panel suburbs across the Soviet Union. These five-storey apartments were highly desirable, especially in comparison to shared apartments or wooden barracks. Although Cheremushki has some Garden City ideas, such as open spaces and the superblock, it is firmly suburban – workers were expected to commute to Moscow proper for work or entertainment, and the area was planned from the beginning as an extension of Moscow. Originally intended for egalitarian living, the apartment buildings’ large plots of land and general lack of public transportation have today turned Cheremushki into a car-dependent bedroom suburb.

Las Colinas, Texas

Las Colinas was formed to provide an affluent community to the large corporations and businesses in the Dallas metro area. It is the pinnacle of suburbia with its middle/upper class inhabitants, single family homes, retail centers and well groomed walking paths throughout the community. Las Colinas has a place for all types of inhabitants creating a bustling community. The one thing separating Las Colinas from the bourgeois definition of a suburb is inhabitants that are of extreme upper class as it is home to many Fortune 500 business people and continues to have competitive advantage over other Texan cities.

Levittown, NY

Levittown is the first modern American suburb, built in 1947 after the Levitt & Sons company purchased a 7-square-mile plot of land. Many couples viewed Levittown and other suburbs as a chance to start over after WWII, and had the opportunity to purchase houses because of the G.I. Bill. People left cities like NYC and the larger, denser parts of Long Island to move to Levittown, where homes were built every 16 minutes at its peak. Each house was exactly the same, and the population was similarly homogenous. The mortgages were cheaper in Levittown than they were in large cities, but there were specific rules that prohibited minorities from buying houses and moving in, creating the homogeneity. Regarding the people themselves, the men usually worked in the nearby cities, while women stayed at home taking care of the children, a trend that echoes Robert Fishman’s note of the Evangelical movement encouraging women to return to the home and revolve their entire lives excusively around their family.

Riverside, IL

Riverside, IL is a planned suburb west of Chicago designed in 1869 by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Olmsted. The new railroad that passed nearby going directly to Chicago sparked new access to transportation and commerce for the area, which brought significant housing and a construction boom. Olmsted aimed to create a scenic area available for all residents by designing curved streets and avoiding right angle intersections to create more public space. The suburb serves as a low density environment defined by the primacy of middle-class single family houses set in greenery. However, Riverside is known to be a white suburb as Caucasians make up around 95% of the population, which limits further cultural and racial diversity.

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 restrictive middle-class, white version.  Later issues outside of the design’s control, like its annexation into Orlando, lead to initial decline in the 1980s.  Hit with worsening crime, businesses fled and residents lacking access to proper capital have struggled to adjust a sprawling area designed for middle class class commuters to their community and employment 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.

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 developed in the 1920s is inspired by Howard’s ideals of a Garden City, except that the area was designed, and is currently segregated for the working class. Stains originated as a low-cost alternative to crowded terraced housing for the post-war working class, and it currently houses immigrants and the working class, and has higher than average poverty and unemployment rates.  Stains, like Howard’s designs, has planned areas for residential areas of various types, commercial areas and green spaces, which were originally centered around a ring, and have now spread out into small grids. Stains has managed to be self-sustaining as residents strive to keep the city’s buildings and heritage alive. The design of Stains embodies Howard’s ideals of a self-sustaining space, with low-density diverse housing, however, as it is economically segregated, it deviates from Howard’s original ideal of a Garden City.

Park Güell, Barcelona

Nowadays, Park Güell is a famous public park in Barcelona. However, it was initially planned as Garden City and can serve as an example of how wrong such ideals can go when being realized. Eusebi Güell was a businessman who assigned Gaudi to design a Garden-city styled housing site.  Instead of creating a community-oriented and self-sustainable design, they came up with a plan of the park that was meant for only the upper-class, with 64 villas and some communal spaces and green fields far away from the overcrowded, smoky city center. Yet, the former remoteness of its location discouraged even the wealthy potential buyers, and the only two residents of the site were Gaudi and Güell themselves.

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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