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. 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.

Canberra, Australia

Canberra was founded in 1913 as an entirely planned city and was built from scratch to be Australia’s capital. It was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a Chicago architect who won a contest to design the city. Its design was meant to reflect the Garden City principles of Ebenezer Howard and while it does evoke many of the positive features of the garden city movement, in recent years it has been criticized for contributing to urban sprawl, and a layout that is not designed for walking. Its distinct separation of residential, industrial, and civic districts— in theory contributing to organization has only furthered urban sprawl and made it difficult for residents to go anywhere without the use of a car or public transportation. Additionally, its geographical location makes it highly susceptible to holding smoke/smog. Given the number of wildfires in Australia in recent years this has become an increasingly more important issue and it is critical for the future of Canberra that it addresses this problem.

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.

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