Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities have inspired almost every aspect of modern urban planning. Most suburbs, and many cities, draw on bits and pieces of the design. There are a number who have actually aspired, at least in name, to be true garden cities. It is worth noting that very few have even attempted Howard’s drastic economic and social ideas, and those that did abandoned them not long after founding.
The full list and map of “official” garden cities according to the International Garden Cities Institute, can be found here, but here I’ll just be looking at a few I find interesting.
Hampstead, England: 1907
Hampstead was the first “garden suburb,” a special class of garden city that undercut many of the radical aspects of Howard’s ideals. Laid out by the same planners as Letchworth, it was intended to provide low-density housing to people of all economic classes. However, it lacked in industry, shops, and services, and could not function as an independent community. Hampstead was dependent on the decidedly un-garden city of London, and antithetical to the intent of Howard’s plan.
Greendale, Wisconsin; Greenbelt, Maryland; and Greenhills, Ohio: 1936-1938
The Resettlement Agency, one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies, built three towns on Garden City principles. The agency aimed to buy unproductive land, build experimental communities, and move struggling farmers into them. One of the earliest and most radical examples of public housing, accusations of socialism soon moved it to much narrower farm assistance. The three built towns are “greenbelt” communities, and were owned and rented out by the federal government, reminiscent of Howard’s collective ownership.
Radburn, New Jersey: 1929
Radburn was built by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright as a “town for the motor age.” It features the separation of pedestrian paths and various levels of car traffic with underpasses, an unusual feature in the early days of the automobile. Homes in the suburb were built in “superblocks,” facing inward toward pedestrian paths and green space. The founding company declared bankruptcy in 1934, and most of Radburn went unbuilt.
Pinelands, South Africa: 1920
A suburb of Cape Town, built under the supervision of Letchworth planner Richard Unwin, Pinelands features thatched houses, separate pedestrian, bike, and car roads, and a central civic center. It was the first of several South African garden suburbs, and is unfortunately tied into apartheid: the greenbelts on these suburbs acted as buffers between various segregated neighborhoods, and narrow cul-de-sacs made citizens easy to control and monitor.
Canberra, Australia: 1913
Designed by Walter Burley Griffin, the capital of Australia features geometric garden designs and broad spoke-and-wheel boulevards. On the other hand, it lacks a greenbelt, and many later additions shrunk roads and built into green space. Now, the city has recommitted to “New Garden City” ideals.
Tel Aviv, Israel: 1929
Created by town planner Patrick Geddes, the plan for Tel Aviv features the grouping of cultural and public buildings in the center of the city, as well as districts separated by major boulevards. Houses could occupy only a third of their lot, and had required offsets from the streets and each other to leave broad open spaces. Most of the plan was built in the Bauhaus style by German architects immigrating from Germany during the rise of fascism. Since the expansion of the city, the planned area has been referred to as the White City and is considered a large historic district.