The MA Architecture + Urbanism course is the Manchester School of Architecture's taught postgraduate course which conducts research into how global cultural and economic forces influence contemporary cities. The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Ebenezer Howard: Garden Cities of To-morrow (1902)

Reviewed by Luke Butcher

Perhaps one of the most influential books in the field of urban planning in the past 150 years, Garden Cities of To-morrow was the second edition title (1902) of Ebenezer Howard’s book To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Reform (1898). Within its pages Howard put forth designs for a “social city” that attempted to bridge between the individualist (capitalist) system of the time and the ideals of socialism that were gaining political impetus, with Trade Unions, Co-operatives and ideas of communal land protection (central to Howard’s argument).

Dreamt up during a time when countries were beginning to urbanize (15% of the world’s population were urban, a rapidly growing figure), there were squalid living and working environments and the working class were unable to afford a decent home. Howard’s response was just one of numerous utopian visions that spoke of a better future, with the key difference being that he aimed to produce a scheme that was both realistic and achievable.

The model of a “Garden City” set out in the first chapter of the book is ultimately the greatest legacy of the book, rightly or wrongly, with the subsequent formation of the Garden City Association in 1899 (that 42 years later would become the Town and Country Planning Association) leading to the “Garden City Movement.” The construction of two garden cities – at Letchworth (1903) and Welwyn (1919) – would act as further catalysts for change, that culminated, but was not way limited to, the post-Second World War New Towns Act.

Ebenezer Howard

Born the son of a shopkeeper in the City of London, on the 29th of January 1850, Howard, after schooling, took on a number of clerical posts. In 1871, aged 21, he emigrated to the ‘frontier country’ of America to become a farmer. This would prove unsuccessful and he subsequently spent four years living in Chicago, witnessing its’ rebuilding following the great fire. It was during this time he began to contemplate ways to improve cities. He eventually returned to London, in 1876, to a job producing the official verbatim record of Parliament. This would become the primary occupation for the rest of his life and meant he was constantly exposed to the political elite of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Howard began to move in certain social circles, originally through various religious groups, that saw him become involved in late-19th century English social reformism, without ever entering into the socialist mainstream. His political ideologies were more closely aligned to that of the co-operative movement, as opposed to trade union movement.

In addition to these socialist ideologies Howard was heavily influenced by the utopian visions of Edward Bellamy and his publication Looking Backway (1888). According to the ‘great admirer’ of Howard, Frederick J. Osborn, “under the impact of the book the conception of an ideal town came to him as essentially a socialist community.” Howard, in the book itself, highlights three major influences: the proposals for an organized migratory movement of population by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Professor Alfred Marshall; the system of land tenure proposed by Thos. Spence; and the model city of James Buckingham. The ideas put forth in To-morrow were a synthesis of his personal experiences and the works of others.

The Evil of the City

“We are becoming a land of great cities. Villages are stationary or receding; cities are enormously increasing. And if it be true that the great cities tend more and more to become the graves of the physique of our race, can we wonder at it when we see the houses so foul, so squalid, so ill-drained, so vitiated by neglect and dirt?”
Dean Fararr

It is important to understand the context to which Howard’s work was a reaction. London (and other cities) in the 19th century were in the throws of industrialization, and the cities were exerting massive forces on the labour markets of the time. Massive immigration from the countryside to the cities was taking place with London compared to “a tumour, an elephantiasis sucking into a gorged system[s] half the life and blood and the bone of the rural districts” (Lord Rosebery). This situation was unsustainable and political commentators of all parties sought “how best to provide the proper antidote against the greatest danger of modern existence” (St. Jame’s Gazette, 1892) – the importance of the Boer Wall call up and the realization that the health of the English fighting man had greatly deteriorated can not be forgotten either.

The Three Magnets

To Howard the cure was simple – to reintegrate people with the countryside. In trying to understand and represent the attraction of the city he compared each city to a magnet, with individuals represented as needles drawn to the city. He set about comparing the ‘town and country magnets’ but decided that neither were suitable attractors for his utopian vision. Instead he believed that “Human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed together” – his solution “the two magnets must be made one.”

The Town-Country Magnet

Building on the principles of the Three Magnets, Howard begins to establish a hypothetical scenario for the testing of his proposals for social reform. To do this the reader is asked to imagine a 6,000-acre estate, purchased for £240,000 and vested in trust to four honourable gentlemen. The Garden City itself was to cover 1,000 acres and be home to 30,000 people. Taking a circular form the city would be divided into six equal Wards, by six main Boulevards (named for pioneers of Human thought) that radiated from a central garden. Around the centre garden would be placed the civic institutions (Town Hall, Library, etc) and then a ‘Central Park,’ which in turn is enclosed by a ‘Crystal Palace’ – an arcade of indoor shops and winter garden. A series of concentric ringed tree-lined Avenues provide the major streets for houses, with a ‘Grand Avenue’ 420-feet wide that is both a 3-mile continuous public park and home to schools and churches. At the edge of the city Howard placed the ‘heavy’ industry of factories and warehouses, with direct access to a Municipal railway that aimed to alleviate pressure on the cities street network and connect the Garden City to the rest of the nation. Surrounding the city the remaining 5,000 acres are a designated Agricultural Belt, home to 2,000 people, with cow pastures, farmland and welfare services including an asylum.

Despite being incredibly descriptive in his proposal Howard repeats on a number of occasions that the design and ideas on planning he puts forth should not be taken verbatim, instead any design should be entirely dependent on the context. The principles, which Howard wanted to emphasise, were not morphological – with the exception of an agricultural belt to limit city growth and concentrate social life within the city (Robert Fishman) – but sociological.

Revenue and Expenditure

Central to Howard’s argument was that the Garden City could operate economically and allow the community to have ownership of the land. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the revenue derived simply from rents could be used to:
- Pay the interest with which the estate was purchased (providing a 4% return for the initial investors
- Provide a sinking fund for the purpose of paying off the principal
- Construct and maintain all the works typically undertaken by municipalities (including a detailed breakdown of associated costs)
- Provide a large surplus for other purposes including old age pensions, medical services and insurance


In dealing with the administration of the Garden City the first question to be dealt with is the extent to which municipal enterprise is carried out and to what extent it should supersede private enterprise. Howard does not advocate the complete municipalisation of industry or the elimination of private enterprise, instead he proposes a cautious and limited municipality that doesn’t attempt “too much.” The activities are to be closely related to the rate-rent of the tenants and would “grow in proportion as municipal work is done efficiently and honestly.”

With this in mind the structure of the municipality and its administration is proposed with a Board of Management composed of The Central Council and The Departments (Public Control, Engineering, Social and Education).

A Welfare Municipality

The Garden City proposal could be read as being in a state of tension between individual and social ideals. This is particularly evident in the explanation of how to create local choice, in terms of goods and services available to citizens, is made by heavily regulated private enterprise. Instead of “an absurd multiplication of shops” providing the same service – a single shop is allowed with the threat of competition (if the community feels the shop keeper is keeping prices to high, paying insufficient wages to his employees, etc) designed to keep prices low and service high. These local tradesmen are in essence municipal servants in all but title; not being bound in what Howard calls the “red tape of officialism.”

Howard hopes that, as opposed to other socialist (including communist) reform experiments of the day, that his proposal would appeal to not only individuals but to co-operators, manufacturers, philanthropic societies, and others experienced in organisation.

City Growth

Assuming the Garden City model was implemented and found to be successful Howard begins to describe how the City could grow and become part of an integrated network of Garden Cities. The principle of “always preserving a belt of country” around cities should always be maintained, argues Howard, so once a city has reached capacity a new one must be founded outside the agricultural belt (the influence of colonial-models prominent). The off-shoot city would grow organically, a ward at a time. Eventually there a central city (of perhaps 58,000 inhabitants) would be surrounded by a number of smaller off-shoot cities, connected by railroad and canal infrastructure.

Dystopian London

Howard ultimately turns his attention back to London, as an example of the “largest and most unwieldy” of 19th century cities, predicting that Garden Cities had the potential to dramatically change London: reducing population, clearing sums and ultimately turning it into a Garden City.

“The time for the complete reconstruction of London – which will eventually take place on a far more comprehensive scale than that now exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Glasgow, Birmingham or Vienna – has however, not yet come. A simpler problem must first be solved. One small Garden City must be built as a working model…”

These predictions are the most utopian of the book and perhaps would have come to fruition if not for a number of external factors that Howard either couldn’t have foreseen or failed to realise the importance of – notably the rise of the automobile.

Legacy of Howard and the Garden City

When To-morrow was first published the world was very different to the media-rich urban environment we currently inhabit. Despite this Ebenezer Howard is still regarded as one of the most important figures in the international development of urban planning. His simple diagrams of the model city have been taken up and reinterpreted a hundred times over across the globe but Howard’s most cherished ideas of social reform had very little impact – his social reformist message was lost.

“Very quickly, the Garden City came to be understood in a more limited sense, as an urban planning model to reform the spatial arrangement of social and economic life. It is through this understanding that Howard’s legacy has largely been experienced.” (Stephen V. Ward).

He set in motion new ideas about hierarchy of services within the city, the essential components of community, being planned with clear zoning principles. Whilst the ideas about hierarchy and zoning were not original in themselves, it was the holistic approach that Howard adopted that helped lend them legitimacy. The idea of the agricultural belt, the ‘bounded’ city, is directly responsible for policies of ‘Green Belt’ in the UK (and other parts of the world) that has since evolved and changed but essentially remains about constricting and controlling urban growth.

Additionally, the debate about the future of American Cities in the 1950s, with the infamous arguments between Jacobs and Mumford, can be traced back to the Garden City Movement. It will forever be associated with the ideas of suburbia and, increasingly, new urbanism.

If there was one enduring legacy though, beyond the physical make-up of the city, it is the importance Howard gave to creating a sense of community and harbouring relationships between human beings, enhancing them through good planning and design that promoted sociability.

Garden Cities of To-morrow Micro Site

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Architecture + Urbanism recommends: Moretti at MAXXI

Until 28 November Zaha Hadid's MAXXI in Rome currently hosts an exhibition of the work of Luigi Moretti
Entitled 'From Rationalism to Informalism' the exhibition traces the long and varied career of the architect through his works in Rome and elsewhere. Maristella Casciato and Bruno Reichlin discuss the exhibition in this short video.

Friday 22 October 2010

Volker M Welter: Biopolis - Patrick Geddes and the City of Life

A review by Kathryn Timmins of this study of the influential urban thinker Patrick Geddes

The theories, obsessions and beliefs of the Scottish urbanist, biologist, sociologist, historian, geographer and town planner Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), are the main focus of this book by Volker M. Welter, along with the people and studies affected by his work.
Originally trained as a biologist, Geddes was intrigued by the evolution of human life and its future possibilities within its growing urban context. Working at the turn of the century, where the entity of the city was starting to develop at a fast rate, Geddes was part of an era that asked questions about this new urban life, its origins and subsequent expectations. He was born into a “century of cities.”
Placed in context and examined and explored, Geddes’s work is complemented and compared with research of similar topics by fellow intellectuals from the past and present. The book is not a biography of Geddes, but an investigation into the questions that he raised and the studies that were affected by these. It looks not only at town planning on an architectural scale, but the metaphysical, spiritual, individual and global one.

CHAPTER 1 - “Angling for Cities!”
“Vivendo Discimus - by living we learn.”
Patrick Geddes

Studying biology at university, Darwin’s theory of evolution influenced Geddes and his study of life, consequently resulting in his journey as a ‘scientist of life’. Geddes became obsessed with classification from his biological work and consequently looked at the classification of life throughout his career, attempting to ‘give back to the world a structure. The study of habitats and environments stems from this starting point and leads to Geddes’s work with towns and cities trying to understand how human life can be improved by the growth of a town into a city.
Welter looks at how Geddes’s involvement in the Revolt against Reason (a movement consitisting of intellectuals at the time questioning fact and looking at “the significance of religion in all human societies”) lead to his spiritual, metaphysical studies of human life;
“Geddes did not hesitate to marvel at the mysteries of life or capture them in the symbolic, imaginative forms of art or literature. Yet he always went a step further and asked how life could be improved, rather than merely understood.”

CHAPTER 2 - Patrick Geddes’s Theory of the city
“City and citizen are bound in an abiding partnership of mutual aid.”
Patrick Geddes

“ As the landscape changed its appearance, the life of the people changed too.” Victorian Britain, the age of vast industrialisation and expansion of cities encouraged investigation into city life itself. Therefore, people began to look back at antiquity to find better previous models of society ie the Middle Ages, the Greek polis. Geddes devised various ‘thinking machines’ as a way of studying this human interaction with its environment. The Notation of Life was his most successful and widely examined. It focused on the headings; TOWN, SCHOOL, CLOISTER and CITY IN DEED integrated with the triad of WORK, PLACE and FOLK.

Geddes attempted to use this with the Town-City formula he devised as a law of the evolution of cities from towns. The Act-Deed formula also investigated this transformation on an individual scale, looking to raise individual human life to higher levels of conscious existence to transform a town into a city. This individual process then had to be applied to communal psychology; how the individual acts within a community to enable transition as a collective. Moreover, Geddes explores the idea of using the Cloister to embody ideas for a city into the urban fabric, creating a city soul (comparable to the Acropolis in Athens);
“ The soul not only gives life to matter but is also the carrier of knowledge about ideas and forms”

CHAPTER 3 - The City and Geography
“Our town and country divisions…are now for the most part totally inadequate for modern purposes.”
Patrick Geddes

Elisée Reclus (the French anarcho-geographer) suggests that the town and country merge as the city, “transforms and elevates the countryside to its own, more highly evolved level of social and cultural life.” The Valley Section designed by Geddes explores this and discusses the various settlement types, occupations and physical environments of the region-city and how they interacted. Welter states that instead of the city taking over the rural areas, Geddes believes the “town arises and renews itself from the country…in character, individual and social.”

Considering these new studies of the city and city life, Reclus assumed that world peace must be a “pre-condition of the ever-expanding city” contrasting Geddes’s view that this will be achieved through the constructive activity of city building. The author therefore progresses the study from regional to universal looking at The Outlook Tower where individuals were theoretically able to understand and reflect upon the environment at a range of scales, encouraging an individual citizens transition from town to city

CHAPTER 4 - The City in History
“The world is ever beginning anew, each community with it, each town and quarter”
Patrick Geddes

The Arbor Saeculorum, ‘The tree of centuries’, was originally a design for a stained glass window at the Outlook Tower in Edinburgh, and was for Geddes a summary of all known history at the time. The two scrolls to the left and right sides of the sketch, depicted symbols relating to each known time period with the tree in the middle representing the future of human history. It illustrateg history as a continuous process of growth as, “a city is more than a place is space, it is a drama in time.” It again shows this belief that individual members of each type must realise their role within society as a whole.
Investigating this further, Geddes understood four social types; PEOPLE, CHIEFS, INTELLECTUALS AND EMOTIONALS, “a city is only achievable if the four groups work together harmoniously.” However, Welter discovers that little thought into the interaction between these social forces and their different classes is given.

CHAPTER 5 - History in the City
“Architecture, it has been said, is crystallized history
Patrick Geddes

Restoration spread through Britain in the nineteenth century, which sparked Patrick Geddes idea for ‘conservative surgery’, “including the whole city within the potential scope of preservation activities,” planning to engage the citizens with their cities' current conditions as well as past. The historical survey looked at the earlier city in the context of the four social types and aimed to, “put the historical city at the disposal of the contemporary one.” Conservative surgery was then used as a tool in modern city planning, amending an area by minimizing the amount of historical demolition for new structures, it "preserved the built heritage by adapting it to ‘the requirement of the present’ and was used to rebuild Crosby Hall. The Cities and Town Planning Exhibition played a large role in this, it became a place where city surveys and reports on the Past, Present and Possible of cities could be displayed, helping people to understanding the evolution of cities (phylogeny).

CHAPTER 6 - The Metaphysical Imperative in Urban Design around 1900
“In every city there are men inventing, dreaming, finding the city its soul”

Building the Ideal Community -
“We must build a city, a whole city, anything less would be pointless…we shall create a world… from the overall design down to the last detail, all governed by the same spirit, the streets and the gardens and the palaces and the cottages…all expressions of the same sensibility, and in the middle, like a temple in a sacred grove, a house of labor, both artist's studio and craftsmen's workshop, where the artist will always have the reassuring and ordering crafts, and the craftsmen the liberating and purifying arts about him, until the two finally merge, as it were, into a single person.” Joseph Maria Olbrich

As a result of these city explorations and studies, Geddes began to examine the need for a metaphysical center for the city, a place for the individual to experience himself as a member of the whole. This would therefore provide a place for this personal transition from town to city. Temples as a vital role in city life was a common thought at the time, whether it be a Temple of a particular religion or not, or simply a center for thought. The book places this Temple discovery in context looking at similar designs and innovations of centers and hence Temples of a similar perioid; the Rock and Castle oF Seclusion for example by Richard Dadd in 1861.

CHAPTER 7 - The City and Spirituality
“evolution considers form and function no longer statically, but in movement”
Patrick Geddes

Geddes lost faith in traditional religion and so turned to these Temples of life, thought, geography etc as a metaphysical center for the city. The Temple of Geography, a Nature Palace conceived by Geddes, included biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy; the individual was to exposed to various exhibitions and installations before being encouraged to reflect in the temple space. The idea of the Globe itself was used as a teaching tool in exhibitions initially, “ a macrocosm of the microcosm itself”, then picked up by Geddes and used in his temple designs as a catalyst for thought and reflection.

In addition to this, Geddes returned to his study of The Greeks and their polis, supposing that they were the closest to a perfect society with their spiritual emphasis. Therefore, the nine Greek Gods which, “expressed the ideals of humanity” also became pivotal parts of informing his designs.
Obviously according to Geddes, there was a need for religiosity in human life and the Temple was designed as a place for unity between science and religion in cities.

CHAPTER 8 - From the Temple of the City to the Cultural Acropolis
“Our town becomes a City indeed, with Acropolis and Temples
Patrick Geddes

To create transformation from Town to City, needs not only the individual “Town Thinking” or “Town Feeling” but a whole communal experience. Geddes believed that a physical space was definitely needed for this, plus a place for city scale events and festivities to celebrate the city itself. Geddes looked closer at the Cloister (possibly a University area) to achieve this, as an “institute of Synthesis”.

“Geddes’s city is not ruled by God but by the eternal idea of life sybmolized in the temple of the Greek Gods” - he looked at this ‘feeling’ development of Dreams and Deeds and tried to create a place where these could be applied to reality; “interact with religion and polity with thought and action…these create Acropolis, Temple.”

In antiquity, what Geddes described as a Cloister (or Cultural Acropolis, as it developed into a center for theatre, spiritual learning, academia, the arts etc) was always raised high above the town to attempt to concentrate these elements into one space (eg the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon). This followed through into his own designs which are demonstrated in the book's diagrams and sketches. Others at the time also followed the “City Crown” idea of the cultural and educational center for the city, for example Bruno Taut and Tony Garnier.

Notes, Conclusions and Questions

Looking at the spiritual side of city life is extremely interesting, but are these centers successful at transforming the individual? What exact process do they need to go through to progress the town to a city? How does this then work as a whole community thought process? Every citizen is unique, how does this apply to all of them? Could a town successfully complete this transformation according to Geddes’s path? Have any towns already done this?
Intrigued to discover more about the Greek way of life in the polis, why does Geddes think this is so perfect? If their spiritual ideas and ways of life could have been applied to Geddes’s era, are they still relevant today?
It is interesting that Geddes disregards class in his studies, especially at a time when class becomes more and more relevant in society at the turn of the century with the vast urban growth and poor city conditions, do his colleagues who study class come to any similar conclusions about city design? How did Tony Garnier and Bruno Taut come to their decisions about the city?

Monday 18 October 2010

Architecture + Urbanism recommends: Villa Frankenstein

The current exhibition at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale curated by muf is well worth exploring. Read more about it here.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Architecture + Urbanism recommends: Notes from the Archive

Notes from the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, Architect and Teacher
14 OCTOBER, 2010 — 2 JANUARY, 2011

at the Yale Center for British Art

Stirling's work has been interpreted by historians and critics in a number of varied, and often conflicting, ways. Some have seen it move through a series of eclectic modern styles; others have insisted that Stirling was a steadfast Modernist; while still others have proposed a fundamental break with Modernism in the mid-1960s. Stirling himself contributed to these diverse views through his own writings. Notes from the Archive, curated by Anthony Vidler, Dean and Professor of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union, will deepen our knowledge of Stirling's unique approach to the design process and demonstrate continuity in his work from his early days as a student to his final projects. According to Vidler, "This exhibition offers the potential for the re-evaluation of Stirling's career as an architect, revising the often contradictory assessment of his work from the 1960s on, through the evidence of the notebooks, sketches, presentation drawings, photographs, and original models the office."

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication authored by Anthony Vidler. The book will interpret the James Stirling/Michael Wilford fonds at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, as a living document of Stirling's attempts to broaden the language of Modernism while remaining faithful to his twin precepts of accommodation and association. While not a catalogue of the exhibition, this publication follows the themes of the exhibits and develops the interpretation of Stirling's contribution to the history and vocabulary of modern architecture that is presented in the show. It is published by the Yale Center for British Art and Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, in association with Yale University Press.

Friday 8 October 2010

MA A+U Colloquium 2010

image by Vincent Walsh

You are cordially invited to a celebration of the work of the MA Architecture + Urbanism graduating cohort of 2010 on the afternoon of

Thursday 14 October in 303 CHATHAM

2.00 Edward Cutler MA
Body//Space: Living in The Carbon-Silicon Gap

2.30 Vincent Walsh MA
Densifying Patchwork Ecology

3.00 Parvinder Marwaha MA
SCREAM: The Analog Rite of Passage

3.30 Richard Cowley MA
The Inner Madman has designs ...


Wednesday 6 October 2010

Tibetan Talk

On 15 September MA A+U graduate Marshal Nandi Han gave a presentation at The Architecture Foundation in connection with his project in Lhasa for which he was awarded the 2010 AF / KPF Travel Scholarship, offering a unique opportunity to view and hear a new generation's responses to public space today.

Friday 1 October 2010

Cities and Urban Ideologies 2010

For the new academic session the following books will be reviewed by the following newly enrolled students. Their reviews will be posted on the blog after the seminar commences on 21 October 2010

Ebenezer Howard
Luke Butcher

Volker Welter
Kathryn Timmins

Tony Garnier
Supriya Pundlik

Eric Mumford
Matthew Pilling

Simon Sadler
Christina Gregoriou

Kevin Lynch
Natalie Macbride

Jane Jacobs
Chen Xu

Larry Busbea
Jonas Komka

Aldo Rossi
Angad Kasliwal

Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter
Jack O’Reilly

Rem Koolhaas
Carrie Bayley

Rob Krier
Meliz Kusadali

Peter Katz
Angela Heaney

Albert Pope
Ketki Tendolkar

Lars Lerup
Preeya Vadgama

Manuel de Sola Morales
Laleh Fadaipour

Steven Holl
Rongxiao Han
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