The Garden City Concept

The Garden City Concept

The famous three magnets diagram in Ebenezer Howard's book Tomorrow, a Peaceful Path to Real Reform" which set out the advantages of town/country over both town and country included references to those elements of landscape which, integrated with the built components of a town would create unimagined new lifestyle opportunities for working people.

In this diagram beauty of nature, fields and parks of easy access, bright homes and gardens, pure air and water and freedom were included as being complementary to the health, economic, social and employment advantages of town/country.

When the book was republished in 1902 and reached a much wider audience, it's amended title "Garden Cities of Tomorrow" further emphasised the concept and benefits of an essential green component of the proposed civilised alternative to Victorian city living.

The plans of the two British garden cities, Letchworth started in 1902 and Welwyn started in 1920 included extensive tree lined boulevards, avenues, crescents and squares giving a green structure, focus and dignity to their centres. They also had curving tree lined roads (sometimes with grass verges) in housing areas, generous gardens with hedged boundaries contributing to the soft 'country' image, richly planted forecourts, allotments, parks and a significant area of protected farmland for agriculture, countryside recreation and town environment. Great attention was paid to landscape and planting with flowering and foliage, trees and shrubs. Roads and buildings were positioned with care to allow for the retention of existing trees and copses. Raymond Unwin, of the architectural practice Parker & Unwin which prepared the Letchworth plan believed that the medieval English village ideally expressed a close inter-relationship between nature, buildings and social structure and that this inter-relationship should and could be achieved in a new garden city.

This the Letchworth plan achieved very successfully in parts but the original plans contained over ambitious designs for the centre which were in due course toned down to provide a more balanced relationship with other parts of the development. Letchworth became a comfortable small town. Its 'arts and crafts' architectural style and pleasant landscape setting was poorly imitated in much suburban development in Britain, but became a model for the 'new town' planners and designers to aspire to.

  1. 'HOWARD, Ebenezer' Tomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform.London, 1898,The true first edition of Howard's famous work re-published with its new title in 1902.
  2. 'HOWARD, Ebenezer' Garden Cities of Tomorrow.London, 1902 Revised edition of Howard's famous work with its revised title.