This design ideas competition aims to discover new designs for a modern garden city to meet the needs of the 21st century, whilst recapturing the pioneering spirit that led to the development of the world’s first garden city at Letchworth, United Kingdom. The competition is seeking master planning concepts for the proposed residential development of a 45 Hectare site to the north of Letchworth, which will be the first expansion of the Garden City in a generation. Letchworth Garden City was the brainchild of Ebenezer Howard, a social reformer who sought to address issues of deprivation, squalid living conditions and the inequity of high rents, by reforming land ownership and combining the best of living and working in the town and country, through a series of planned settlements, known as Garden Cities. Howard’s principles, set out in his 1898 publication, ‘To-Morrow a Peaceful Path to Real Reform’ , sought a social, community and economic model, where value is captured from land and reinvested back into the local community. This included detailed funding and expenditure projections, community governance and stewardship.
LETCHWORTH GARDEN CITY
Letchworth Garden City commenced development in 1903 as an experiment, with the hope that this would lay the platform for the government to create a series of new settlements, using Ebenezer Howard’s social city model. Welwyn Garden City would follow, with development commencing in the early 1920s. These early garden city schemes have influenced new settlements across the world, from Hampstead Garden Suburb, to the New Deal towns in the America, post war UK new towns, a series of settlements across Europe and Australia and today in China, where these principles are valued. In the UK we are for the first time in a generation seeking new settlements based on garden city values and principles, which is also included in national planning policy.
Howard did not advocate a particular architectural approach, he sought beautiful places, where people would like to live and work, with high quality and decent homes. In his book, he described tree lined roads and excellently built homes. He also advocated embracing modernism, stating that that the garden city should be planned, ‘with a view to the very latest of modern requirements’.
Today Letchworth Garden City is a town of over 33,000 people, with 15,000 jobs. It has a strong and vibrant local community and continues to apply the stewardship, governance and reinvestment models sought by Howard.
WHAT IS GARDEN CITY DESIGN?
This is a question that is often asked of the Foundation and there is not a simple answer. There is not a single type of garden city architecture and it is not correct to assume that the beautiful designs produced by Parker and Unwin in Letchworth, Unwin and Lutyens in Hampstead Garden Suburb or De Soissons in Welwyn Garden City should necessarily be replicated. Garden cities across the world have taken various different approaches, such as modernist schemes in some UK new towns and examples such as Zlin in the Czech Republic, Le Corbusier’s Le Citie Jardin at Weissenhof, more traditional arts and crafts design between the First and Second World Wars in mainland Europe and today’s new urbanism settlements, more reflective of Unwin’s principles, in the United States.
The Town and Country Planning Association highlight as part of their current garden city principles with respect to design: Beautifully and imaginatively designed homes with gardens, combining the best of town and country to create healthy communities, and including opportunities to grow food.
The Foundation is presently celebrating the work of Barry Parker, who was lead master planner with his partner Raymond Unwin for Letchworth, a fantastically talented architect and master planner in his own right, a Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, a founder of the Landscape Institute and Fellow of the RIBA. He designed the master plan for Wythenshawe, including the original parkway; Porto; and the suburbs of Sau Paulo in his own right. He worked on New Earswick and Hampstead Garden Suburb with Unwin. He was also responsible for countless individual schemes and smaller master plans.
Parker’s core values of simplicity and beauty, with functional and well thought out spaces, making effective use of land, are valid today, as are the core principles extolled by arts and crafts advocates.
The competition will be run in two phases.