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The Garden City Movement

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The Garden City Movement

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning that was initiated in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. Garden cities were intended to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by "greenbelts", containing proportionate areas of residences, industry and agriculture.

Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward and Henry George's work Progress and Poverty inspired Ebenezer Howard to publish his book To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898 (reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow).

Ideally his garden city would accommodate 32,000 people on a site of 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces, public parks and six radial boulevards, 120 ft (37 m) wide, extending from the centre. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another garden city would be developed nearby. Howard envisaged a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city of 50,000 people, linked by road and rail.

The second edition of his book, Garden Cities of To-morrow was successful and this provided Howard with the support needed to realise his vision. The overcrowding and deterioration of cities was one of the troubling issues of the time. Howard’s garden city concept combined the town and country in order to provide the working class an alternative to working on farms or ‘crowded, unhealthy cities’.

In order to build a garden city Howard needed to find finance to buy land. To do this he founded the Garden Cities Association (later known as the Town and Country Planning Association or TCPA), which created First Garden City, Ltd. in 1899 to create the garden city of Letchworth.

The donors would collect interest on their investment if the garden city generated profits through rents. Howard tried to include working class cooperative organisations but could not win their financial support. Because he had to rely only on the wealthy investors he had to make concessions to his plan, including eliminating the cooperative ownership scheme with no landlords, short-term rent increases, and hiring architects who did not agree with his rigid design plans.

In 1904, Raymond Unwin, architect and town planner, along with his partner Barry Parker, won the competition run to plan Letchworth, an area 34 miles outside London. Unwin and Parker planned the town in the centre of the Letchworth estate with Howard’s large agricultural greenbelt surrounding the town. They shared Howard’s notion that the working class deserved better and more affordable housing. However, the architects ignored Howard’s symmetric design, instead replacing it with a more ‘organic’ design.

Letchworth slowly attracted more residents because it was able to attract manufacturers through low taxes, low rents and more space. Despite Howard’s efforts, the home prices in this garden city could not remain affordable for blue-collar workers to live in. The population was made up mostly skilled middle class workers. Ten years later the First Garden City became profitable and started paying dividends to its investors. Although many viewed Letchworth as a success, it did not immediately inspire government investment into the next line of garden cities.

A very good book with a great deal of detail of all aspects of the development of Letchworth and a comprehensive bibliography of other books on the subject is "Letchworth The First Garden City by Mervyn Miller".

In 1919 Howard bought land at Welwyn to house the second garden city. The purchase was at auction, with money Howard borrowed from friends. The Welwyn Garden City Corporation was formed to oversee the construction.

Even until the end of the 1930s, Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City, both in the County of Hertfordshire, England. remained as the only existing garden cities. The movement succeeded in emphasising the need for urban planning policies that eventually led to the New Town movement.

Frederic James Osborn, a colleague of Howard, was successor at the Garden City Association.

After WWII the concept was again implemented when the New Towns Act initiated the development of many new communities based on Howard's egalitarian ideas.

Connected People

  • F. Lee Ackerman - contributor
  • Thomas Adams - Scots surveyor interested in rural regeneration was appointed Secretary
  • George Cadbury hosted the first Garden City Association Conference was held in 1901. Principal shareholder
  • Walter Elias "Walt" Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) used elements of Howard's concepts in his original design for EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).
  • Earl Grey, Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland a patron of the Garden City movement.
  • A. Harmsworth (proprietor of the Daily Mail). - principal shareholder
  • T.H.W. Idris - on the board
  • Arthur W Kenyon 1885 - 1969 was an English architect who worked with Louis de Soissons at Welwyn Garden City for eighteen years designing many of the houses there.
  • H Claphham Lander - contributor (Designer of the co-operative flats in Sollershott East).
  • W.H Lever - principal shareholder
  • Adam Gottlieb Hermann Muthesius (20 April 1861 – 29 October 1927), known as Hermann Muthesius, was a German architect, author and diplomat, perhaps best known for promoting many of the ideas of the English Arts and Crafts movement within Germany and for his subsequent influence on early pioneers of German architectural modernism such as the Bauhaus.
  • Ralph Neville K.C. was recruited to the Association and subsequently elected chairman.
  • Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (July 24, 1870 – December 25, 1957) was an American landscape architect who is best known for his wildlife conservation efforts. He had a lifetime commitment to national parks, and worked on projects in Acadia, the Everglades and Yosemite National Park.
  • Sir Frederic James Osborn (1885–1978) was a leading member of the UK Garden city movement and was chairman of the Town and Country Planning Association. He lived in Welwyn Garden City, the garden city he helped create, and a local school (Sir Frederic Osborn School) was named after him in 1968.
  • Richard Barry Parker (18 November 1867 – 21 February 1947) was an English architect and urban planner associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was primarily known for his architectural partnership with Raymond Unwin.
  • H.D.Pearsall a civil engineer - on the board
  • Bernard Shaw also made a contribution Louis E J G de Savoie-Carignan de Soissons CVO RA FRIBA (1890–1962), was the younger son of Charles, the Count de Soissons. An architect, he was called for professional purposes Louis de Soissons. The first major commission of the practice he set up (Louis de Soissons Partnership) was the 'master plan' (so-called - a very early use of the term) for Welwyn Garden City (1920). de Soissons was born in Montreal, Canada, but moved in childhood with his family to London. In 1913 he won the first year of the Henry Jarvis scholarship of the Royal Institute of British Architects, enabling three years of European travel and study.
  • Clarence Arthur Perry (1872-Sept 6, 1944[1]) was an American planner, sociologist, author, and educator. He was born in Truxton, New York. He later worked in the New York City planning department where he became a strong advocate of the Neighbourhood unit. He was an early promoter of neighbourhood community and recreation centres.
  • Bruno Julius Florian Taut (4 May 1880 – 24 December 1938), was a prolific German architect, urban planner and author active during the Weimar period.
  • Sir Raymond Unwin (1863 – 1940) was a prominent and influential English engineer, architect and town planner, with an emphasis on improvements in working class housing.
  • Henry Harvey Vivian (20 April 1868 – 30 May 1930) was an English trade unionist, Lib–Lab, later Liberal Party politician and campaigner for industrial democracy and co-partnership, especially noted for his work in co-partnership housing.
  • Herbert Warren the Pioneer Companies solicitor

Developments influenced by the Garden city movement

  • Glenrothes, United Kingdom
  • Bedford Park, London, United Kingdom
  • Covaresa, Valladolid, Spain
  • Den-en-chōfu, Ōta, Tokyo, Japan
  • Hellerau, Dresden, Germany
  • Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
  • Marino, Dublin, Ireland
  • Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom
  • Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Village Homes, Davis, California, United States
  • Reston, Virginia, United States
  • St Helier, London, United Kingdom
  • Tapiola, Finland
  • Telford, United Kingdom
  • The Garden Village, Kingston upon Hull

Worldwide inspired development

United States

Examples -

  • the Woodbourne neighborhood of Boston;
  • Newport News,
  • Virginia's Hilton Village;
  • Pittsburgh's Chatham Village;
  • Garden City, New York;
  • Sunnyside, Queens;
  • Jackson Heights, Queens;
  • Forest Hills Gardens, also in the borough of Queens, New York;
  • Radburn, New Jersey;
  • Greenbelt, Maryland;
  • Buckingham in Arlington County,
  • Virginia; the Lake Vista neighbourhood in New Orleans;
  • Norris, Tennessee;
  • Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles;
  • Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights

Greendale, Wisconsin is one of three "greenbelt" towns planned beginning in 1935 under the direction of Rexford Guy Tugwell

The two other greenbelt towns are Greenbelt, Maryland (near Washington, D.C.) and Greenhills, Ohio (near Cincinnati).

The greenbelt towns not only provided work and affordable housing, but also served as a laboratory for experiments in innovative urban planning. Greendale's plan was designed between 1936 and 1937 by a staff headed by Joseph Crane, Elbert Peets, Harry Bentley, and Walter C. Thomas.


In Ontario the following are, in part, garden cities.-

  • Kapuskasing,
  • Don Mills (now incorporated into the City of Toronto) and
  • Walkerville

The historic Townsite of Powell River, British Columbia is a nationally recognised historic district built upon the Garden City Movement.


  • The ancient city of Chan Chan (20 km², 850 AD) in Trujillo, north of Lima, and
  • the Inca's 12th-century city of Machu Picchu, were designed as garden cities.
  • Peru's modern capital, Lima, was designed as a garden city in 1535 by Spanish Conquistadors to replace its ancient past as a religious sanctuary with 37 pyramids.
  • More recently, in 1966, the 'Residencial San Felipe' in the Lima's district of Jesus Maria was built using the Garden City concepts


In São Paulo several neighbourhoods were planned as Garden Cities,

  • Jardim América,
  • Jardim Europa,
  • Alto da Lapa,
  • Alto de Pinheiros,
  • Jardim da Saúde and
  • Cidade Jardim (Garden City in Portuguese).

Goiânia, capital of Goiás state, is an example of Garden City.


  • Ciudad Jardín Lomas del Palomar, declared by the influential Argentinian professor of engineering, Carlos María della Paolera, founder of "Día Mundial del Urbanismo" (World Urbanism Day), as the first Garden City in South America.


  • the suburb of Colonel Light Gardens in Adelaide, South Australia, was designed according to garden city principles.
  • The town of Sunshine, which is now a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria.
  • Canberra (capital of Australia established in 1913)


  • New Delhi (designed as the new capital of British India after World War I), of and of


Quezon City (established in 1939, capital of the Philippines from 1948–76).


  • Da Lat in Vietnam (est. 1907)


  • Ifrane (est. 1929).


  • capital city Thimphu the new plan, following the Principles of Intelligent Urbanism, is an organic response to the fragile ecology. Using sustainable concepts, it is a contemporary response to the garden city concept.


The Garden City movement also influenced the Scottish urbanist Sir Patrick Geddes in the planning of Tel-Aviv, Israel, in the 1920s, during the British Mandate for Palestine. Geddes started his Tel Aviv plan in 1925 and submitted the final version in 1927, so all growth of this garden city during the 1930s was merely "based" on the Geddes Plan.

South Africa

  • The suburb of Pinelands in Cape Town.