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garden city

  A planned and relatively self-contained settlement, developed with an emphasis on spaciousness, environmental quality and \'greenness\'. It represents the first successful modern attempt to exploit these planning principles for whole settlements, in turn attributed to the theoretical ideas and practical promotion of a City of London stenographer, Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928).

His own vision, as outlined in his Garden cities of tomorrow (1902, first published in 1898 under a different title), saw garden cities combining the social, economic and cultural benefits of big-city living with the advantages to the individual of a more healthy rural environment. Each city would accommodate some 32,000 people on a 6000 acre site, planned according to a concentric land-use pattern in which residential and commercial land were segregated. Openness was injected through wide boulevards, low-density development and public parks within, with farmland and green belt beyond. On reaching its capacity, additional growth was directed to further garden cities, so creating a system of planned centres around their parent metropolis, the whole being interconnected by efficient rail and road links.

In 1899 Howard founded the Garden City Association which, four years later, bought a site in Hertfordshire on which Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin designed the world\'s first garden city, Letchworth. A second followed at Welwyn, also in Hertfordshire, in 1920.

The garden city movement showed how decentralization could contribute to the planned improvement of congested urban centres, a theme taken up in Britain\'s post-war New Town and urban renewal programmes, while the Garden City Association led to the founding of the Town and Country Planning Association in 1918, still a potent pressure group in British planning policy. Thus Howard\'s ideas, first supported by a fringe grouping of eccentric idealists, have become enshrined in the mainstream professional and political world of urban planning (Hardy, 1991).

They have also been adopted internationally, and although settlements called \'garden cities\' outside Britain show variations from the Howard model, high-quality residential environments, low densities and greenness are still central themes. Both in Britain and elsewhere, too, similar ideas have been adopted on a smaller scale in the intra-urban development of garden villages and garden suburbs. The geographical interest in Howard\'s ideas lies partly in their diffusion and absorption into different cultural contexts, bolstering his claim to be the most important figure in the international history of town planning. While the debt that these adaptations owe to Howard\'s ideas is an arena of debate, it is clear that Howard in his turn was influenced by the utopian ideas of Victorian urban thinkers and philanthropic industrialists, and by time spent as a young man in the mid-West of the US (Hall, 1996). (AGH)

References Hall, P.G. 1996: Cities of tomorrow: an intellectual history of urban planning and design in the twentieth century. Oxford: Blackwell. Hardy, D. 1991: From garden cities to new towns: campaigning for town and country planning 1899-1946. London: Spon.

Suggested Reading Beevers, R. 1988: The garden city utopia: a critical biography of Ebenezer Howard. Basingstoke: Macmillan.



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