Garden Cities

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. 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 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
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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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Town of Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada

The Town of Mount Royal was a town founded in 1912 and designed by Frederick Todd, who was himself inspired by Ebenezer Howard and the Garden City movement. While currently a suburb surrounded by the city of Montreal, it was initially a Garden City separated from old Montreal by a greenbelt, and connected by an underground railway. Interestingly, while the land was purchased from farmland, the main proceeds of sales were used to fund the expansion of the Canadian railway instead of community re-investment. This community was made for upper-income residents, avoiding the original spirit of Howard’s city. From the layout, it’s central square bares a resemblance to Letchworth’s oval center with radial roads emanating outwards. Some unique designs that embody the philosophy of Garden Cities include curved roads and parks in roundabouts break up the grid and create neighbourhood-sized communities, while a circular road encompassing the inner half of the town offers easy passage between neighbourhoods.

Mount Royal, Quebec

Mount Royal, Quebec was a model city designed to be at the foot of Mount Royal mountain in Canada. Designed by Frederick Todd, who was heavily influenced by Ebenezer Howard, Mount Royal was created on 4,800 acres of farmland in 1912. Mount Royal was created as a response to industrialization and big-city problems that plagued large metropolitan centers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of the urban renewal movements (the Garden City movement), expressed through the presence of a railway, main arterial roads, winding parkways, and its zoning and layout.

Created by the Canadian Northern Railway, there is a rail tunnel under the mountain that connects this land to downtown Montreal, much like the rapid transit systems typically seen between garden cities. Two main roads cross diagonally at Connaught Park, a green space at the center of the city. The garden city has changed little from its 1912 creation, but the town is currently facing pressure to rezone and change height restrictions in order make room for taller condos.

Den-en-chōfu, Japan

Den-en-chōfu, is a district in southern Tokyo, 10km away from the Tokyo center. It was initially designed in the early 19th centuries and was heavily inspired by Ebenezer’s Garden city concept. Public facilities such as subway station, hospital, post office and school are all concentrated in the middle of the circular road pattern. This allows its residents to be in close proximities to the essential facilities while being free of the noise and busy life style. The district features many parks, wide road networks with lots of cherry trees. Its unique design and town-feels have made it a popular district among executives and celebrities.

Reston, VA, USA

Reston, VA is a Garden City that was developed in the 1960s. Using Green City principles, the city is designed to serve as an alternative form of living in contrast to nearby Washington, DC. The cul-de-sac organization and the large greenbelt of rural farmland surrounding the city are physical and mental buffers to DC that posit Reston as an smaller, greener, and tighter-knit community and an alternative to the bureaucratic, crowded, and transitory DC. Reston’s lack of grid and countless footpaths also serve to create a contrast between Reston and DC by orienting Reston along pedestrian-centered development, as opposed to DC’s highways.

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