Category: Garden Cities

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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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 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 and was an alternative to urban renewal movements of the times. As a  Garden City,  Montreal large green spaces, the presence of a railway, main arterial roads, winding parkways, and was surrounded by a large rural belt. However, besides design elements, the city failed to realize the spirit of Ebenezer Howard’s goals for Garden Cities, creating an enclave for upper-class citizens instead. Additionally, after the Canadian Northern Railway tunnel projects reached completion, the city lacked industry and self-sufficiency, relying more on rapid transit systems to the opportunities in downtown Montreal.

The garden city has changed little, socially and structurally, from its 1912 creation, but the town is currently facing pressure to rezone and change height restrictions in order to make room for taller condos and additional housing.

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.  The city’s design is heavily inspired by Garden City principles, and was designed to theoretically be a Garden City to nearby Washington, DC. The city is split by superblocks surrounded by large roads with cul-de-sacs within, and a large greenbelt of rural farmland surrounds the city. Reston also has districts separated by use, and countless footpaths that cut through the city’s many parks. Yet despite these elements, the city fails as a Garden City. The city is incredibly autocentric and relies heavily on nearby DC for jobs, education, and entertainment; in addition, the city is socioeconomically homogeneous. Reston is proof that picking and choosing elements of a Green City does not necessarily create a Garden City.

Pinelands, Cape Town

Pinelands, South Africa’s first garden city, was created in response to the 1918 Influenza and the overcrowding that resulted in many deaths. Inspired by Ebenezer Howard, designer Richard Stuttaford envisioned a suburb of Cape Town that would grant the affluent members of the city the ability to live among the amenities of a major city and the beauty of the environment. These inhabitants have access to over 30 parks within the city limits as well as a view of Tabletop Mountain, and very few man-made structures exceed 4 stories. In Pinelands, Stuttaford managed to construct better houses and public buildings while also nurturing the education of equality by providing high-quality school halls to address the decades of racial inequality in South Africa. 

Eco Village, New York

Founded in 1991, Eco Village outside Ithaca, New York now houses about 240 people in dense housing structures. The founders bought the land in the area, and they grow their own food, which they use to sustain themselves in an environmentally-friendly way. They have a partnership with Cornell University, and they give regular tours to university students and others to educate the public on living sustainably. Homes are duplexes, and cars are parked in a central parking lot, rather than close to homes, and laundry is located in one of the two large common buildings. Everyone who moves in takes part in a learning process so that they can decide whether they want to stay: because it’s community-centered, all decisions are made by the community together, and everyone is expected to clean around the area. Many residents have home-based businesses inside the Eco Village, like a massage therapist, a counselor, computer consultants, an attorney, and more.

Forest Hills, NY

Forest Hills, located in greater Queens NY, is one of America’s oldest planned communities modeled after England’s garden cities. For the most part it was successful because it incorporates a shared green space with urban conveniences, is overseen by the Forest Hills Garden Corporation which thereby forms a strong sense of community, easy transportation via subways and the Long Island Rail Road to the city and the characteristic street design such as the repeated use of cul-de-sacs and housing blocks. However, Forest Hills no longer provides affordable housing for blue-collar workers- instead it offers one of the most expensive residential properties in Queens County.

Canberra, Australia

Canberra was founded in 1913 as an entirely planned city and was built from scratch to be Australia’s capital. Incorporating elements of the Prairie School and Garden City movement into the design of the Parliament Triangle, the city also boasts a number of planned amenities like curved boulevards, an abundance of park space, and a man made reservoir. In recent years it has been criticized for contributing to urban sprawl and having a layout that is not designed for walking. Its distinct separation of residential, industrial, and civic districts has only furthered urban sprawl and made it difficult for residents to go anywhere without the use of a car or public transportation. Many of Canberra’s issues likely result from its lack of diverse economic opportunities and unplanned suburban additions. Recently, it has also been susceptible to the effects of climate change.

Quezon City, Philippines

Quezon City, created in 1939, is a city in Metro Manila and was originally intended as a capital complex. Some of its original features are heavily inspired by the garden city movement. The city was planned to be a self-contained city, organized radially around a central green, with wards divided by large boulevards, generous communal green spaces peppered throughout, and the presence of greenbelts. Notably, the site has since evolved from a self-contained capital inspired by the garden city movement to something that, today, has been subsumed the wider Metro Manila, becoming extremely dense in the process. In its current form, it suggests that the self-containment principle is merely an ideal, one which, in this case, did not hold against the sprawl of the adjacent cities. In its original form, even if it probably would not have been read as a garden city by Howard in its totality, the presence of these design features are a testament to the internationality of the garden city movement.

Lusaka, Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia was intended as a garden city in sub-Saharan Africa. The 1931 plan segregated European and African communities, while offering very little in the form of economic activities. The divide can be seen from above even today and is accentuated by the greater amount of green space in the formerly European area.

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