THE DEVELOPMENT OF GARDEN CITES AND THEIR FUTURE POTENTIAL
Monet, C.(1874) The Railway Bridge at Argenteuil
Abstract: Garden Cities of To-morrow! by Ebenezer Howard is a Victorian book on city planning which addresses the slums and overcrowding of London. Garden City is a proposal for a Victorian self-sustained city. This extended essay aims to understand Garden City better and to consider its Future potential.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF GARDEN CITES AND THEIR FUTURE POTENTIAL An Extended Essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma in Architecture by omitted second copy
Supervisor: omitted second copy ESALA Edinburgh College of Art University of Edinburgh 2011-2012
1 Extended Essay
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The development of Garden Cities and their future potential.
Industrialisation leads to urbanisation, creating challenges for town planners. Victorian Britain was one of the first countries to face mass migration from the countryside and poor living conditions in the fast growing cities. It was also a country where reformers looked for solutions to the problems arising from the expansion of cities. One of these reformers was Ebenezer Howard, the father of the Garden City movement. Howard's book Garden Cities of tomorrow! puts forth novel ideas about combining the best of rural and urban living. Only a couple of cities were built in Howard's lifetime, but his ideas have remained influential and are still relevant to town planning today. This essay begins by taking a short look at Victorian Britain and at the life of Ebenezer Howard. It continues with a summary of Howard's ideas and then goes on to look at how they were implemented. Finally it considers their potential for town planning in the future. It is important to note that Garden Cities and Garden Suburbs are not the same. A Garden City is intended to be a self-contained settlement with its own governance and cultural amenities within a defined area. A Garden Suburb is a development where inhabitants commute for work and goods, which encourages sprawl.
Victorian Britain: Cultural Context Garden Cities of Tomorrow! was published in 1893 when Britain's monarch was Queen Victoria and the prime-minister was a liberal statesman called William Ewart Gladstone. This was the period of industrial revolution where technological advancements were aiding society. Trains had been in operation for 60 years (Howard, 1902). It had become law for a man to walk in front of a motor vehicle waving a red flag for safety (Hall & Ward 2002).
Britain was in a twenty year agricultural depression due to poor harvests and increasing imports from Australia and the Americas. In Britain's countryside, work was hard and low paid. This encouraged mass migration to cities, most notably to London. With the industrial revolution and this mass migration, London had been forced to develop rapidly. This growth comprised of new buildings, offices, railways, docks, warehouses and factories. The destruction of housing provided space for these new buildings (Hall & Ward 2002), which in turn put overwhelming pressure on the existing housing and infrastructure and led to increased density. People lived in overcrowded housing and squalor; large parts of London had become a slum. The industrial revolution had been very destructive to the environment, polluting the air, water and soil with toxic materials. The terrible conditions caused by this pollution would have been experienced most near the slums where people would have lived close to the factories they worked in.
Ebenezer Howard London in the 1880's was a hotbed of free thinkers; the city was in social and intellectual turmoil and was the scene of growing class struggle. Groups such as Marxists, socialists and anarchists formed, wanting new social order to address rising problems in the city (Hall & Ward 2002). One of the most remarkable reformers to emerge during these years was Ebenezer Howard, author of Garden Cities of Tomorrow! and the founder of the Garden City movement. Howard was a shorthand writer of good education but with little money. He had a wife and four children. Compared to most people of his time he was well travelled. He emigrated to America to start pioneering farming in Nebraska, but had little luck and ended up shorthand writing in Chicago from 1872-1876 (Hall & Ward 2002) At this time Chicago was under reconstruction from its great fire of 1871, exposing Howard to American construction techniques. Similar experiences of America helped inspire and develop the theories of Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.
Howard returned to London in 1876. He took a position as a shorthand writer at Gurney's, the official parliamentary reporters, where he worked for the remainder of his life. This job put Howard in close contact to political matters of the day, an environment that was an advantage to him for knowing and arguing on major issues (Hall & Ward 2002). Howard joined the Zetetical Debating Society in 1879, and moved in some of the leading intellectual circles. The Zetetical Debating Society allowed its members, both men and women, complete freedom of discussion, political, religious and sexual. A special feature was that at the end of the speech the speaker would be cross-examined (Dipankar, 2007). Howard was on good terms with George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Web, founding members of the socialist group, the Fabian Society. Howard himself was not a socialist, however. He had strong views on individualism and entrepreneurial motivation, believing that people enjoyed success both from cooperation and combined effort and from individual and personal effort. Howard was an outsider to town planning and did not have the training or any learning that a town planner would normally have (MacDonald & Larice 2007). However, he was a man of many ideas. As a passionate inventor, he spent many hours of his free time delving into new projects and working them out on paper. He was not afraid to step out of tradition, using the ideas of others as building blocks, accepting new technologies, thinking about their future potential and how their influence might affect daily life. In his book, Howard envisions that all machines would run by electricity and that heavy mechanical machinery would aid ground work in Garden City, relieving workers of hard labour (Howard, 1902). Howard was a good communicator and public speaker with a powerful speaking voice. However, he was unconcerned with his personal appearance, which did not match his capabilities, and he was not noticed in a crowd (Hall & Ward 2002). G.B. Shaw noted that the “Garden City geyser” was “an amazing man” and “an elderly nobody.” Although this was not important to the movement’s most enthusiastic followers, it could make it difficult to attract support from the less committed.
Garden Cities of tomorrow: Summary This section will be a summary of Howard's thoughts from Garden Cities of Tomorrow! Howard first describes the attractions of town and country, and then goes on give a diagrammatic layout of a Garden City, before dealing with questions of financing and administration. He ends with a description of how he sees the Garden City in the future. Garden City was to be a decentralised settlement that would provide the inhabitants with the best of rural and urban living. It would offer affordable living in a healthy environment, while at the same time providing work for its inhabitants. The city would have its own governance, a Board of Management, which would be elected by the population, and which would regulate municipal and private enterprise on its behalf. Unlike other cities of the time, Garden City would not depend on parliamentary acts for the approval of new projects. Instead it would be a self-sustained community which would grow through intelligent, efficient and honest cooperation (Howard, 1902).
The Town-Country Magnet Howard saw town and country as magnets, each of which pulled people towards them for different reasons. He illustrated this idea in a diagram, The Three Magnets, where he listed the pros and cons of town and country life. While towns offered better paid work, they also suffered from overpopulation, high rents and prices, pollution and the blocking out of sunlight. The countryside was a more pleasant place to live, but work there was hard, long, badly paid and seasonal. People living there would lack the time to enjoy their environment and would not have the same possibilities of social interaction and advancement as townspeople. Howard's solution was to create a third magnet, the town-country magnet. At the heart of his idea for a Garden City, this magnet would attract work-a-day people by offering them a countryside
style of living and, at the same time, the higher wages and standards of living and comfort that were typical of a town. This third magnet would have a vital bearing upon national life and well-being.
A diagrammatic layout of a Garden City
At the heart of Howard’s Garden City was a central urban area of 1,000 acres (4.05 km²) with a population of 30,000. This “town estate” would be surrounded by an agricultural area of 6,000 acres (24 km²) with a population of 2,000. The town estate is planned as a circle with a radius of 1,240 yards (1.134 km). Within the circle there are five circular roads, which Howard called avenues. These avenues are intersected by six radial roads, boulevards, which divide the city into six neighbourhoods or wards. From 5th Avenue to 1st Avenue are residential dwellings. There are 5,500 building lots of an average size of 20x130 foot (6x40 m²) and a minimum 20x100 foot (6x30 m²).
An advantage of this layout was that it gives residents easy access to all facilities. At the centre of the circle is a garden of 5.5 acres (22,260 mÂ˛) containing all the principal public buildings: town hall, theatre, principal concert and lecture hall, museum, picture-gallery and library. Closest to the central park is 5th Avenue, which is lined by a crystal palace similar to that of Joseph Paxton and Charles Fox of the Great Exhibition 1851. This was intended as a shopping mall and winter garden. The third avenue, called Grand Avenue is much wider than the others, 420 ft. (128 m), and is laid out as a park. It contains schools, playgrounds, gardens and interdenominational religious buildings and within easy reach of all residents, no further than 240 yards (229 m). At the outer ring of the town estate is the larger agricultural area, which is also the location for electrically driven factories, warehouses, dairies, markets, coal and timber yards. These all face a railway line which circles the city and connects to rail networks, bring goods closer and easily to
the consumer. This rail network is also used in public transport and between residential and work areas. The border of the outer area is the limit of the Garden City's growth. Once this limit is reached, a new city is to be developed with its own agricultural estate. Such cities would then form clusters a round a larger central city.
The Financing of Garden City Howard believed that, with the help of investors, it would be possible to finance his Garden City project and he devotes a large section of his book to the details of calculation and finance. The investors’ money, which would be held by four gentleman trustees, would be used to buy agricultural land at its depressed value. As Garden City grew, the value of the land would grow with it, but this value would still be more affordable than land in the cities. This would attract new inhabitants, who, as joint owners of Garden City, would pay “rate-rents”. These rate-rents were central to the financing of the project. One part would be used to pay interest to the investors, a second part would be used to pay off the borrowed capital, while a third part would be used for the construction, maintenance and upgrading of the city's amenities as well as to finance community groups, old age pensions and health insurance. Howard thought that Garden City would grow rapidly and the rate-rents from 32,000 inhabitants would give investors a quick return (Hall & Ward 2002). Once the investors were paid off, the rate-rent would be spent only on public services, which would make Garden City a welfare state without the need for local or central tax (Hall & Ward 2002).
The Governing of Garden City Howard’s Garden city is owned by every inhabitant. The idea that everyone participates in the city government is very central to Howard’s thought. Garden City would be run by an elected Board of Management. The members of the board would be chosen because of their skill and ability and would be accountable to the inhabitants for their actions. Howard also envisioned what he called “pro-municipal groups”, in which people could come together to do voluntary charity work to benefit the community. For Howard, it was important to give the community power to take decisions about key questions in the everyday life of the citizens. This is why he gave the Board of Management several
different responsibilities. First, it would manage the city’s finances and, in particular, control the rate-rent and the repayment of investors. Second, it would be responsible for organising the construction, maintenance and upgrading of Garden City and its infrastructure, including transport, sewage, the power supply and the provision of open spaces. Third, the Board of Management would provide education and health services, as well as recreation facilities. Finally, it would regulate trade and commerce to the benefit of consumers. In short, Howard saw Garden City as a democratically run, semi-autonomous community of committed citizens who contributed actively to the common good.
Howard’s Expectations about the Success of Garden City At the end of his book, Howard is optimistic about Garden City’s changes of success. Like a clever inventor devising a new machine by using ready-made parts, he had developed his plan by drawing on the best of existing ideas, including the proposals for organised migration by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Professor Alfred Marshall, and James Silk Buckingham’s ideas on the model city. Howard saw the development of the first Garden City as an experiment. For this reason its size was to be kept small. This would make it easier to prove to the public that the Garden City model would really work, just as the first railway line had demonstrated the advantages of trains. Once people saw the advantages of cheaper and healthier living which Garden Cities offered, they would leave the slums and move to the new communities. With the success of the first Garden City, similar cities would be built elsewhere. The success of Garden Cities would also help, indirectly, to improve the quality of life in big towns. As people moved out, slums could be demolished and replaced by green spaces, creating an urban environment more similar to that of the Garden Cities themselves. The Garden City would become an equilibrium helping both the urban and rural environment.
Letchworth – The First Garden City To implement his ideas, Howard would need strong support. In 1899, a year after the publication of the first edition of his book, he formed the Garden Cities Association. By 1902, the year of publication of the second edition, the Association had 1,300 members. They included 101 vice-presidents, 2 peers, 3 bishops and 25 members of parliament (Hall & Ward 2002). However, he did not manage to gain effective support from organized working class groups such as the cooperative societies, or from the Fabian Society. Although some Fabian Society members, such as H. G. Wells joined the Garden City movement, most socialists gave it the cold shoulder. Howard’s ideas, particularly his emphasis on individualism, contradicted the basic strategy of the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society's secretary went as far as to ridicule Howard personally. G. B. Shaw, who was on good terms with Howard, commented that industrial leaders would be willing to join the movement as it would provide a source of cheap labour. However the downside was that the leaders would not want to lose freedoms of their power (Hall & Ward 2002). Another step forward was taken 1902 with the formation of the Garden City Pioneering Company. In addition to Howard, its members included Edward Cadbury, the cocoa-industrialist; Thomas Howell William Idris, a Liberal Welsh MP, and William Hesketh, a soap manufacturer. The company's task was to survey sites, using strict criteria, in search of a location for Garden City. Two sites were found, each with a good railway connection, water supply and drainage: Childly Castle east of Stratford, and Letchworth just 35 miles (56 km) north of London. Letchworth was chosen because of its closeness to London (Hall & Ward 2002). After the purchase of the site, a new company, First Garden City Ltd. was formed to manage the construction of Letchworth. However, from this point on, Howard’s influence on the development of “his” project was limited. (Hall & Ward 2002). This was partly because he lacked the management skills needed to develop an enterprise of this kind, partly because his project was dependent on wealthy investors who made decisions with which he did not agree. As a result,
although the city that developed over the next few decades incorporated many of Howard’s ideas, his original vision of a Garden City was only partly fulfilled. One of the decisions by First Garden City Ltd. that Howard was forced to accept was the appointment of architect-planners Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker to draw up plans for Letchworth. Unwin and Parker implemented several of Howard’s ideas, including the commercial centre, zoned industrial areas, houses set in green gardens, and an agricultural belt. However, they were unsympathetic to Howard’s symmetrical city layout. (Hall & Ward 2002) (MacDonald & Larice 2007). As Letchworth developed, it bore a resemblance to a rambling German medieval hill town, a reflection of Unwin’s personal taste. (MacDonald & Larice 2007). The geometrical plans for a Garden City contained in Howard’s book were never realised.
In its early years Letchworth was able to attract industry and new inhabitants. Manufacturers were attracted by low taxes and low rents, and several companies set up plants there. The First Garden City Ltd. became profitable and was able to pay dividends to investors. By the late 1930s the population had grown to 15,000 (half of what Howard had envisaged). However, Howardâ€™s major motive had been to offer the working class a better alternative to the grim conditions in traditional cities, and this was not realised. The Letchworth investment model made it impossible to offer truly affordable housing. It was not the poorer working class which moved there, but rather skilled workers, idealists and the artistic middles classes, who were attracted by the idea of an alternative lifestyle. Howard had also wanted to build a city which was more or less self-sustainable. However, Letchworthâ€™s proximity to London would make this goal unrealistic in the long term. Nevertheless, a study based on a 1966 census showed a success, as Letchworth remained more self-contained than similar older towns of similar distance to London. However, as London continued to expand, Letchworth was absorbed in the commuter belt (Hall 1997).
The Future Potential of Garden Cities What can we learn from Howard's ideas on town planning? And what can we learn from the experience of building a Garden City? As mentioned earlier, Howard believed in experimentation, in examining the ideas of other thinkers and applying them flexibly to the problems of his day. This approach to finding solutions is maybe the first thing we can learn from him: It is better not to look at the Garden City idea as a system which we can transfer intact to any place in our time. Instead we should look at his main ideas individually and ask if we can apply them, or adapt them, when we look to the future.
One of Howard's central ideas was to stem the flow of migration from countryside to towns. His alternative was to create self-sustained settlements with the best mix of urban and rural environments. The inhabitants would live and work in the local area. They would be stakeholders with a vested interest in the community. This was a model which would offer everyone a better quality of life In Europe, 80% of people now live in urban environments, the majority in small to mediumsize towns and cities (Gaffron, Huismans, & Skala 2005). Compared with other parts of the world, the levels of migration are low. The construction of new cities is now very rare, as it is more sustainable to convert existing cities to make them more ecological (Gaffron, Huismans & Skala 2005). A guidance book by the European Commission called ECOCITY, attempts to show how these goals can be achieved: The idea of an ECOCITY is that it should be in balance with nature. This can be achieved through space-saving and energy-efficient settlement patterns, combined with transport patterns, material flows, water cycles and habitat structures that correspond to the overall objectives for sustainability. An ECOCITY is composed of compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use quarters or neighbourhoods, which are integrated into a polycentric urban system in public-transport-oriented locations. In combination with attractively designed public spaces, integrating green areas and objects of cultural heritage to create varied surroundings, an ECOCITY should be an attractive place to live and work. Such sustainable and liveable structures contribute to the health, safety and well-being of the inhabitants and their identification with the ECOCITY (Gaffron, Huismans, & Skala 2005). The ideas expressed here sound almost as if they were written by Howard himself. They can certainly be seen as evidence of his long-term influence. In Europe, stemming migration to the cities is not so urgent a priority as it used to be. But the improvement of the quality of urban life remains on our agenda, and here the Garden City idea continues to be relevant.
Howard also believed that the community would benefit if citizens were involved in the planning process of their everyday lives and surroundings. We also find this idea in the European Commissionâ€™s ECOCITY (Gaffron, Huismans & Skala 2005), expressed in this diagram:
How well this model would work is difficult to predict. Social interconnectivity and intersubjectivity are intense fields of study, with no means of knowing outcomes (Read, Roseman & Van Eldijk 2005). Rachel Fleming's essay covers how beneficial the creative economy is to rural towns and shows that it helps with bottom-up planning. In addition, modern community communication via internet will help bring the pro-municipal groups together, making them more aware of how they change and shape their circumstances. In other parts of the world, the situation is different from that in Europe. In particular, migration to cities is taking place on a more dramatic scale than ever experienced before. In China, for example, ten million people migrate to cities every year, a trend which is expected to continue
till 2020 (Liang Wei 2012). With such a population shift, it is arguably more sustainable to build new ecological cities (Liang Wei 2012). Obviously, Howard’s ideas could not be implemented to the letter. In particular, the scale of a Chinese Garden City would have to be much larger than Howard’s community of 30,000 people. However, several of his underlying principles could be adapted. Decentralisation, for example, would mean that a new city would be less reliant on other cities, and thus potentially more sustainable. Clearly defined boundaries between agricultural and residential areas would help to limit urban sprawl and unsustainable growth. A limit on density in a new city would help to ensure that its amenities were not pushed beyond their capacity. Another feature of Howard’s Garden City is the intelligent integration of a public transport system into the urban infrastructure. In addition, the city’s layout, a circle with a radius of 1,240 yards (1.134 km) was designed at a local scale, a scale best for cyclists and pedestrians, of medium density with local employment, and with commercial and service opportunities clustered to allow multi-purpose trips (Hall 1997). Transport is now a major problem, with private motor vehicles accounting for a large contribution to a city’s carbon emissions (Gaffron, Huismans & Skala 2005). And in China, car ownership continues to grow at dramatic rates. Private transport could be reduced, partly by making public transport more viable, but also by reducing the distance between residential and work areas. Howard's city layout plans still are a viable approach to creating a selfsustained city and a starting point for examining how cities can be improved and become more sustainable. This layout principle of scale, closeness of residential to work and the public transport system can be taken forward to the future. Howard's symmetric layout could also be adapted to suit different local geological conditions. If a new city was to be planned it would also have to address passive energy solutions of the local climate, reducing environmental impact. The relevance Howard’s ideas and experience on financing a project is more difficult to assess. Similarly, it is difficult to say whether Howard’s bottom-up concepts of city government could succeed under a political system such as the Chinese. In relation to finance, we know that
Howard found it difficult to attract investors, and in the end, in order to raise capital, had to make several compromises. Even then, private investment was not enough. In 1938 governmental decentralisation schemes funded the remainder of the construction of Letchworth. (Hall & Ward 2002). It is doubtful whether private enterprise alone could finance a city built to strict standards of sustainability, particularly on the scale needed in a country like China. On the other hand, an investment on this scale would also be a strain on government resources. Arguably, a public-private partnership would be the most efficient solution. In conclusion: the ideas expressed in Howards Garden Cities of tomorrow! continue to have a future. In Europe, we can see evidence that they are still being implemented, making Howardâ€™s work one of the most influential books on modern town planning. In the fast-growing economies such as Chinaâ€™s we can see challenges similar to those which, over a century ago, Howard tried to address. While it may not be possible to translate all of his ideas one to one, it is certainly worth engaging with his basic principles in our search for sustainable cities on a sustainable planet.
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Image reference in order of appearance Monet, C.(1874) The Railway Bridge at Argenteuil [internet] Available from<http://www.wikipaintings.org > [Accessed 9 March 2012] Howard, E. (1902) Garden Cities of To-Morrow! London, Faber. pp 46,52, 53 & 143 MacDonald, E. & Larice, M.(2007) The Urban Design Reader. London, Routledge. pp 51 Gaffron, P., Huismans, G. & Skala, F. (2005) Eco City. Vienna, European Commission. pp 56 Bibliography Braungart, M & McDonough, W. (2002) Cradle to Cradle. New York, North Point. Campbell, S & Fainstein, S. (1998) Readings in Urban Theory. Cambridge, Blackwell. Cuthbert, A. (2003) Designing Cities: Critical Reading in Urban Design Oxford, Blackwell. Fammatter, U. (n.d.) Building the Future: Building Technology and Cultural Theory from the Industrial Revolution until today. London, Prestel. Fleming, R.(2009) Creative Economic Development, Sustainability and Exclusion in Rural Areas. Creative Cities. Vol.99 No.1 January, pp.61-80. Gaffron, P., Huismans, G. & Skala, F. (2005) Eco City. Vienna, European Commission Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief history. [internet] <www.educationengland.org.uk/history> [Accessed 27 February 2012] Hall, P. & Ward, C. (2002) Sociable Cites: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard. West Sussex, John Wiley & Sons. Howard, E. (1902) Garden Cities of To-Morrow! London, Faber. Jackson, P. (1998) Construction of â€œWhitenessâ€? in the Geographical Imagination. Area. Vol.30 No.3. pp.99-106 Jewson, N. & MacGregor, S.(1997) Transforming Cities: Contested Governance and New Spatial Divisions. London, Routledge. MacDonald, E. & Larice, M.(2007) The Urban Design Reader. London, Routledge. Read, S., Roseman, J.& Van Eldijk, J. (2005) Future City. New York, Spon Yeang, K. (1999) The Green Skyscraper, The Basis for designing sustainable intensive bulidings. New York, Prestal.