At the turn of the 19th century, a British publishing house would release a book written by an English urban planner – a book with an optimistic title. The title of this book was To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, later reprinted as Garden Cities of To-morrow. The English urban planner in question was Ebenezer Howard – and this book would lay the foundations for what would later become known as the Garden City Movement. This movement would go on to produce green suburbs praised for their lofty aims, but it would also produce satellite communities that only catered to a privileged few.
Garden Cities: The Latest Architecture and News
Following the Industrial Revolution, many European cities faced an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth, intensified by the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas seeking better opportunities.
Although cities became more inviting, problems such as pollution and the growth of informal settlements also intensified. Meanwhile, the countryside provided proximity to nature and an abundance of natural resources, but it also suffered from isolation and a decrease in employment opportunities.
Yesterday, the UK Government announced plans for 3 new garden towns and 14 new "garden villages" across England, expanding a plan that already includes 7 previously announced garden towns. Explaining the concept of the garden villages, the Department for Communities and Local Government described settlements of 1,500 to 10,000 homes, saying that together the 14 locations have the potential to deliver 48,000 new houses. In order to expedite the creation of these new settlements, the government has set aside a fund of £6 million (US$7.4 million), which housebuilders will be permitted to use in order to accelerate development at the sites.
However, the architectural community in the UK has mocked the proposals and the government's use of language, highlighting what appears to be a poor understanding of Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities concept. Many have also pointed out that the plans are relatively meager in a country that, by many estimates, is falling hundreds of thousands of new homes short of the number needed every year.
ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this post, we take a look at AR’s October 2014 issue which, inspired by URBED's Wolfson Prize-winning design, features a look at Garden Cities. Here, AR Editor Catherine Slessor questions whether Garden Cities could be the solution for what is fast becoming one of Britain's most potent political problems, asking “Could Howard’s Garden City and Rudlin’s winning proposal for the Wolfson Prize give crucial hints to come out of the housing crisis?
Every town-planning module for architecture students begins (and possibly ends) with the Garden City. Yet though Ebenezer Howard’s famous ‘Three Magnets’ diagram is now 116 years old, the notion of combining the better attributes of town and country in a socially reformed, neatly zoned, quasi Utopian city-on-the-hill still has a pervasive appeal. In Howard’s original vision there was room for all, even an insane asylum and ‘home for inebriates’ strategically corralled in a green belt between the city centre and an outer rim of allotments.
On September 3, 2014, urban design consultancy URBED was announced winner of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize. The competition has spurred unprecedented conversation and debate over the concept of Garden Cities in the UK, while the finalists call for the development of theoretical ideas and implementation of practical solutions. ArchDaily brought you the winning proposal earlier, and The Building Centre, an independent forum of the built environment, teamed up with the Wolfson Prize organizers to bring you an exhibit further exploring the broad range of design solutions from over 200 brilliant entries.
Reacting to URBED's winning proposal in the Wolfson Economics Prize, Richard Rogers has denounced the idea of creating new Garden Cities in the UK, saying that the "ridiculous concept" risks "emptying out existing cities and that is a ridiculous idea."
The proposal by URBED demonstrates how as many as forty towns and cities in the UK, including Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rugby, Reading and Stafford could be expanded, using the fictional city of 'Uxcester' as a case study. However, speaking to the Guardian, Rogers claimed that there was enough brownfield land in Britain's major cities to meet the needs of the current housing crisis, and the creation of new Garden cities would lead to increased car use and middle-class only towns.
Read on after the break for more of Rogers' comments
British urban design consultancy URBED (Urbanism, Environment, Design) have been announced as the winners of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize for their proposal to reenergise the Garden City (GC) movement, first conceived by Sir Ebenezer Howard in 1898. David Rudlin and Nicholas Falk's submission argues that forty cities in England, including Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rugby, Reading and Stafford, could benefit from 'GC status'. The award comes in the wake of polling conducted for the prize showing that 68% of the 6,166 Britons polled thought that garden cities would protect more countryside than the alternatives for delivering the housing we need.
Read about URBED's submission, and the fictional town of Uxcester, after the break.
In an article for The Guardian Richard Rogers questions why, with space still left in urban areas, we should build in the countryside? Lord Rogers, no stranger to political activism, chaired the UK's Urban Task Force in the 1990s, culminating in his report Towards an Urban Renaissance. Now, over fifteen years later, his plea for denser, better designed urban environments has been rekindled as he argues that: "We can't go on like this. The housing shortage threatens both the economy and our quality of life." Laying out a clear argument reinforced by his forty years of experience as an architect, you can read his article in full here.
The shortlist for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize has been announced, rewarding five teams who rose to the challenge to design new garden cities which address the UK's growing housing shortage. The topic of garden cities is becoming a major focus for the UK's planners and architects, with proposals by the government for a new garden town of 15,000 homes at Ebbsfleet providing the starting point for debate.
However despite the debate within the built environment professions, with some arguing that garden cities are best left in the past, a survey commissioned by the Wolfson Economics Prize in conjunction with the award found that 72% of the British public believed there was a serious shortage of housing in the UK, and 70% believed that garden cities were a better way of delivering this housing compared to how - and where - housing is currently delivered. The five shortlisted teams will receive £10,000 to further develop their proposals and aim for the grand prize of £250,000.
Read on after the break for the list of proposals