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Saturday, June 27
The Files
Ebenezer Howard's Garden City concept Buildings and places
Charlottesville (32)
topic: Philosophical Basis, Reading List
City Boundaries (37)
Connection to creation
In recognition of the first 100 years of city planning as a profession, APA has (12)
selected 100 essential books of planning. While I think the word essential may Decision Making (69)
Food Sources (16)
be a little strong, considering that most professional planners have probably only Google Earth
read a handful of these, this is a nice departure point for some summer reading. Travelogues (5)
Missoula (41)
Thanks to Google and the University of Michigan and Harvard libraries, we can Neighborhood Life (45)
download the ones with expired copyrights for free (beats the $$$ for some of people (10)
Personal (7)
these used on Amazon). Philosophical Basis
Reading List (30)
Ebenezer Howard would be an intriguing place to start, going back to the turn of Supply and Demand
the 19th century. Pretty much excoriated by Jane Jacobs in the 1960s as a (50)
Transportation System
decentralist utopian against real cities, he still has many defenders today.
Robert Fishman attributes the more contemporary concepts of transitoriented Where is the Center?
development and urban growth boundaries to Howard: Calthorpe's Portland
regional plan is basically Ebenezer Howard's Social City, with some new color
graphics. Peter Hall sees Howard has an anarchist, something he appreciates, and
insists that contemporary planning could gain from returning to its garden city
roots. Presented here are my reactions to reading Garden Cities of Tomorrow for
myself, and hopefully Ill convince you to download a copy for yourself too.

The famous part of the book is the first chapter, where the plans for the
Garden City are laid out, but it only makes sense in light of some more
foundational principles revealed in subsequent chapters. He goes right into giving
precise prescriptions for the new city, down to acreage and expenses. 6000 acres
of cheap rural land are to be purchased, 1000 of which are reserved for the city. A andAccessories
32,000 person population cap is set, after which a new city will have to be
The City in
As far as the design goes, Howard wants to make it as little like the overcrowded General
London of his day as possible, so public parks and private lawns are everywhere.
A Town Square
The roads are incredibly wide, ranging from 120 to 420 feet for the Grand Avenue, Atlantic Cities

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and they are radial rather than linear. Commercial, industrial, residential, and Brand Avenue
City Comforts
public uses are clearly differentiated from each other spatially. City Forward
Connecticut Yankee
Out West
The overall goal for Howard is to combine the traditional countryside with the CoolTown Studios
traditional town. For too long residents have had to make the unfulfilling choice Creative Class (Richard
between living in a culturally isolated rural area or giving up nature to live in a
How We Drive
city, but "human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed HugeAssCity (Seattle)
Human Transit
together." As he sees it, in a rather Hegelian fashion if you ask me, the two
Imagine no cars
"magnets" of Town and Country that have in the past pulled people in either (Missoula)
direction will, in the future, be synthesized into one "TownCountry magnet." Making Places (PPS
Someone just needs to build the first one. Market Urbanism
Matthew Yglesias
Metropolis on a Hill
As fantastical as the first chapter hits us (or me at least, especially a "crystal Musings of an Urban
palace" element), Howard is completely earnest in his attempts to get it built. In Christian
fact, most of the book can be read as a business model being pitched to potential New Urban Designer
investors. He assures interested parties that he can get them a 4.5% return. NRDC Switchboard:
Kaid Benfield
Howard makes it clear that he is not a socialist, and he does not see centralized Old Urbanist
government playing an initial role. The closest thing I can relate his plan to is a Overhead Wire
homeowners' association on steroids, he calls it a "quasipublic body," which owns Planologie
all the land of the city and leases it out to residents. The financial linchpin of the Proper Scale
Smart Growth Around
plan is the fact that all of the land is purchased up front, so that the increase in
property values generated by the growth will be captured by the community itself. Smart Urban Design
Space and Culture
He also assumes that if everything is planned rationally from the beginning, the
StreetsBlog (New York)
costly process of retrofitting old infrastructure for new technology can be avoided. The City Fix
The Infrastructurist
The Polis
A few philosophical commitments jumped out to me right away as integral to his Urban Milwaukee
whole project. First, Howard deliberately tries to steer a course been collective Urban Planning
and individual authority, a basic paradox he sees as rooted in human nature. He Urban Workbench
suggests a pragmatic approach to sorting out where the impetus should be placed. Veritas et Venustas
If the municipal authorities do a good job they should keep doing it, otherwise it
should be handed over to private enterprise. Ultimately, he sees these two spheres
are headed in the same direction. "There is a path along which sooner or later, Charlottesville
both the Individualist and the Socialist must inevitably travel." And it leads right to
the Garden City. There's the historically progressive synthesis again.
UVa Student Planners
Howard's enthusiastic embrace of progress just drips from every page. He even sees Association
human beings becoming less selfish, as modern advances in science and technology Tomorrow
open up frontiers of human flourishing. Newer is better, just as the railroad is UVa Community
better than the stagecoach. After laying out his final vision for a network of brand Project Albemarle
new garden cities, what he calls the Social City, he briefly considers whether any Infratalk
of the older cities can be salvaged and readapted. Not really. After a precipitous Alliance for
fall in land values, due to migrants opting to move to the newer garden cities, Community Choice in
London will have to be mostly destroyed. Only then might it be refashioned into a
modern city.

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D.C. Metro
This brings up what I take to be a fatal flaw in Howard's whole proposal: he has
little respect for limits. It comes out loud and clear in this quote: Greater, Greater
"Those of us who believe that there is a grand purpose behind Ryan Advent
nature cannot believe that the career of this planet is likely to be Rebuilding Place in the
Urban Space
speedily cut short now that better hopes are rising in the hearts of The Wash Cycle
men, and that, having learned a few of its less obscure secrets, they
are finding their way, through much toil and pain, to a more noble
use of its infinite treasures. The earth for all practical purposes may
Journals and
be regarded as abiding forever." (my italics)
The earth's "infinite treasures"? hmm.
Brookings Metropolitan
This is why the loss of agricultural land to perpetual greenfield development was Center for
of no concern. Even on the little island of England, farmland seemed to go on Technology
forever. Howard wanted to use local materials to build extravagant new structures CitygoRound
Complete Streets
but never considered that they may simply run out. Additionally, he never considers Congress for the New
how this builditfromscratch attitude matches his belief in constantly expanding Urbanism
Fused Grid
technological progress. Why would the Garden City be the final stop of history? Good Magazine
Would not it also have to be destroyed and replaced when the newer model Grist
John Luton's Photo
arrives? (It actually would have within a few decades, because Howard never stream
considered the prospect of automobiles). Lincoln Institute of
Land Policy
I have some design quibbles too, particularly with how he envisions human traffic Project for Public
flowing through the city, but that wouldn't be fair because Howard was more of a
Smart Growth America
social visionary than a designer or engineer. The layout he sketched was The Next American
conceptual and he knew it. He also didn't understand how regional economic forces City
The Original Green
agglomerate. He assumed jobs would just follow people wherever they wanted to Transportation for
go. However, it's best to keep criticisms focused on the a broader philosophical America
Triple Canopy
level. Urban Land Institute
Urban Tools
Howard's understanding of metaphysical synthesis, which is a theme throughout the Transportation Policy
work, was frankly crude. We writes: Institute
Walk Score
"Town and country must be married, and out of this joyous union
will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilization."

The trouble here is that marriage is seen as an absolute collapsing of identity, Blog Archive
when, as many married people soon discover for themselves, the two may become 2012 (6)
one but the two are also still two. Thomas Sharp, a contemporary to Howard, gives June (1)
May (1)
this feisty rejoinder: April (1)
March (2)
"The one agelong certainty, the antithesis of town and country, is February (1)
already breaking down. Two diametrically opposed, dramatically
2011 (10)
contrasting, inevitable types of beauty are being displaced by one November
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drab, revolting October (2)
neutrality. Rural (2)
influences neutralize August (1)
April (1)
the town. Urban February (1)
influences neutralize January (2)
the country. In a few 2010 (62)
years all will be December
neutrality. The strong, November
masculine vitality of the (1)
October (3)
town; the softer beauty,
the richness, the (1)
August (1)
fruitfulness of that
July (6)
mother of men, the June (6)
countryside, will be May (9)
April (10)
debased into one, March (9)
sterile hermaphroditic February (7)
January (6)
2009 (112)
The problem of "the One and December
the Many," a unified whole set November
up against diverse components, has vexed philosophers and theologians for (8)
October (12)
centuries. Christian theologians, at least, gave up trying to decide whether God September
was one or many by around the 3rd century AD. They just let the paradox be and (11)
August (6)
called him the Triune God. Howard's synthesis, on the other hand, is too neat and July (9)
simple. It's all unity and little diversity which, of course, is what Jane Jacobs June (10)
stepped in to remedy several decades later.
g the
So how am I going to leave this on a positive note? Nobody as wellrespected as
Ebenezer Howard could be completely offbase. There are lessons to learn from Ebenezer
the man. He did have a good grasp on the problems associated with his rapidly Howard's
industrializing England, which, by the way, seems to me a similar phenomenon to City
what is now occurring in the developing world. There really is a human proclivity concept
Just a
for the "free gifts of nature," which were being pushed away and cut off by dirty little
factories and crowded streets of 19th century London. Even if it is impossible for comment
humans to indwell nature as he proposes without killing it, we still yearn for the taxes
chance to visit, to remain connected. When is
an urban
Howard identified real social inequities arising from industrialization as many of large
his peers had, and he believed these could best be addressed at the local level, The
what he dubs a "promunicipal" scope. Furthermore, I believe his advocacy for National
rational planning over the chaotic growth of piecemeal evolution has some merit
in a rapidly modernizing context. Another Garden City reformer Raymond Unwin and the
puts his finger on why this is the case, but I'll get to that in a future post.
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17 comments: Commen
Keep the
trail and
the rail
Trevor said... Everythin
g in its
Thanks for the post Daniel.
I enjoyed the book and am especially intrigued by the solution presented, that
ng the
is, buying land and leasing it to the population. I believe this resolves many
next GM
social ills present in our modern feesimple property right system.
I agree with your critiques but I suppose I dont blame him. Hes a child of the
enlightenment. Progress is king. Human purpose is to subdue Nature. Perhaps
he should have lent an ear to Malthus. That said, I am happy to gloss over these
May (9)
parts given the remaining parts which are so good.
April (9)
March (10)
One interesting thing about this book is the backward kickback of reform to
February (8)
the mother city that must result if such a city were built and it proved
January (14)
successful. London would in fact emptyout and decay from the inside if more
socially just and well planned communities were created just outside the 2008 (129)
boarders. But this would ultimately lead to a more socially just London. December
Creative Destruction in the economic jargon. (14)
As for Howards proposal, I think we could modernize it easily in a more (6)
ecological manner. We could locate it on a brownfield, for example, and October (7)
follow a more urban, transect based planning scheme. In so doing I think we September
keep the heart of Howards vision while reforming the logistics per our more (12)
advanced knowledge. August (13)
July (5)
June 29, 2009 at 2:03 PM June (10)
May (14)
Daniel said... April (14)
March (11)
Thanks, Trevor. February
I agree that Howard had the kernels of some really good ideas that are still January (11)
relevant. When you mention advancing Howard's ideas with practices we now
understand better, the notion of commuting comes to mind. As far as I can tell, 2007 (54)
Howard never envisioned anyone commuting outside of the town for work. December
Everything was supposed to be fairly selfsufficient with labor (although there (9)
would be some trade going on). November
That's no longer true, so it may require the adapting of Howard's plan. He October (11)
placed the rail station on the outside of town, because it would only serve September
industry and he understandably wanted to keep this away from the garden (15)
center. But retooling the concept for commuting would require the station to August (3)
be near the center of town. I guess that's one way the garden city notion could
be meshed with contemporary notions of TransitOriented Development.

June 29, 2009 at 5:17 PM

Faramir said...

Daniel, I enjoyed this blog entry tremendously! Being a lifelong amateur in the
field of urban design, I haven't been exposed to classics like Ebeneezer Howard,
so I really appreciate being introduced. In Ebeneezer, I may have found a soul

As such, I have some bones to pick with your analysis of his Garden City, based
at least on what you've quoted and the diagrams you've reproduced. You write,
'Howard's understanding of metaphysical synthesis, which is a theme throughout
the work, was frankly crude. [H]e writes: "Town and country must be married,
and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new
http://discoveringurbanism.blogspot.in/2009/06/ebenezerhowardsgardencityconcept.html 5/9
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civilization." The trouble here is that marriage is seen as an absolute collapsing
of identity, when, as many married people soon discover for themselves, the
two may become one but the two are also still two.'

How is Ebeneezer's "marriage" of town and country a collapsing of identity,

when only 1/6 of the land is built up, and the rest is open? I like the analogy of
marriage, which is very basic and "organic" how is it crude? I love Ebeneezer's
idea of having convalescent homes and children's cottages situated between the
field and forest areas. The farm for epileptics is a great expression of social
conscience probably not how all today's "experts" would handle people with
disabilities, but reasonable for all that.

Interestingly, Ebeneezer's design is almost pointforpoint the same as a

concept I've proposed for a selfsustaining transitoriented village with a
population of about 10,000

Quibbles aside, I've enjoyed your blog and will follow it with pleasure, so
thanks, Daniel!

Larry Krieg
Wake Up Washtenaw
Ann ArborYpsilanti, Michigan

July 3, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Daniel said...

Thanks, Faramir. I do see your point. There isn't anything wrong with the
marriage analogy, per say, but it does seem that Howard leans more on the
unity than the diversity side of urban and rural form. At least philosophically,
he seems convinced that the ideal is to mix the two together as much as
possible, and his actual plans for keeping dedicated farmland seem to be more
tied to the necessity of providing food than an ideal arrangement.

I agree that the 1/6 ratio of city to farmland is a good one, but Howard's
conception of the city portion of his plan does contain a huge amount of open
space itself. A large park in the center, a few layers of greenbelts, and fairly
spacious private lawns throughout. Parks are great, but to me, he might be
swinging the pendulum too far away from an overcrowded London.

July 5, 2009 at 6:27 AM

CarFree Stupidity said...

Hey, I know I'm a little late to the party commenting on this now, but I finally
made it back to read this post (had been meaning to since you posted it)

I can't help but feel that they way Howard envisions "Garden Cities" is actually
pretty great and reminds me a lot of the recent push to once again produce
much of a towns produces close to home in "Market Gardens" just outside the

If Howards ideal of the "Garden City" had been implemented instead of Frank
Lloyd Wrights vision of it with, maybe the world would be very different.

One thing that amazed me is the compact nature of Howard's proposed towns,
not at all like the sprawl of a modern suburbs. Jane Jacobs hits on the density
of "suburbs" in Death and Life. Of course when she is referring to suburbs she is
mostly talking of the original "street car" suburbs taht ringed cities prior to
WWI. Both Howard and Jacobs view low densities as something far different
than what we are now used to. Jacobs says that anything under 20 DUs per acre
is low and that a good number for a suburb is 12 DUs/acre. That is far higher
than most suburbs (I grew up in a house on a quarter acre lot).

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Another facet of Howard's design is that these towns would actually make for
great commutting suburbs if strung along a rail line.

July 14, 2009 at 6:19 PM

Daniel said...

Yeah. Howard is growing on me.

Charlottesville has a density of 5 DUA, and people here see that as city living. I
suppose these labels are all pretty relative ...

July 14, 2009 at 7:02 PM

drzin said...

After reading the post and the comments. I thought to my self that we are all
drawing to the same concussion, that things must change. In the way how we
live in cities around the world. This design concept is best solution for
economics and utilization of resources. We should have a primary design of
sustainability and a holistic, and symbioses relationship with nature.

I think that Ebenezer Howard's Garden City concept, was greatly amplified by
Jacque Fresco with the Venus Project. There is an organization that promotes
the ideas of a sustainable sociality that would flourish in a city that which is
proposed by Ebenezer, and Jacque. The Zeitgeist Movement is where we can
unite for this cause.

WWW.thevenusproject.com and www.zeitgeistment.com

July 7, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Quadmegistus said...

Great post. The heart of any settlement must be a garden. Gardens are
natural, alive, evolving, social, abundant, open, dynamic, organic, expressive,
multisensual, places enjoyed by all species and all ages, social classes etc they
are places to relax and commune, places of easy conversation, places to reside
and find solace as well as be inspired. A garden can feed you, teach you,
embrace you, sting you... it does all of this without intention by Nature's
invention... who is the highest order of architect? Not to mention the endless
scientific evidence that suggests access to green areas, and most imnportantly
wilderness have meassive beneficial effects on psychological states. can we say
all this about a shopping centre or a CBD? Dont think so... shame that the heart
of our cities and nation is consumerism and economics if the two were ever

Great article... hopefully wont be too long now.

October 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM

CSQTown Planner said...

Strategy and accuracy plays important roles in urban planning. An unplanned

city might evoke much disgust besides practical problems like transportation
hassles, water problems, congestion etc. The concept, town planning involves
http://discoveringurbanism.blogspot.in/2009/06/ebenezerhowardsgardencityconcept.html 7/9
3/28/2017 DiscoveringUrbanism:EbenezerHoward'sGardenCityconcept

effective land use along with transportation planning to improve the look and
feel and socioeconomic environment of the city.
Town planning melbourne

September 6, 2011 at 12:03 AM

Anonymous said...

sweet post,
nice summary,
great critique.


October 6, 2011 at 8:23 AM

Planner Mahadhe said...

From : Planner Mahadhe , Urban Plannre, Bangladesh."Naw a days people

planners place all are thinking about the Garden city. starting Green Economic,
Green Banking. but this concept was strated by Ebenezer Howards, now a days
Green is a movement".

Planner Mahadhe

July 11, 2012 at 12:44 AM

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thanks for writing and sharing this post and also some
comments about Howard. I live in a very little garden city near Milan. Italy. Its
name is Milanino. If you want to have a look at it, try google earth. After one
century from its foundation in 1909, you might see how it looks like ;)
especially if looking at all the other "urban planning products" sorrounding this
little oasis. Living here is not bad, in my experience, though the social purposes
are completely gone, the green thinking is still alive and at least there are
beatiful ancient trees and gardens and little houses all around .. fifteen
minutes from the centre of Milan by train. Ah, and still today some agricolture
remaining .I think that after all, this place and its planning concept and design
may be considered as a present from the founders to today's citizens :)
Regards.ciao. Arch. Riccardo Chiaromonte. P.s.if you want to see, there are
some recent and ancient photos of Milanino on our fb page studio chiaromonte
or from www.studiochiaromonte.com.

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