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.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Ebenezer Howard: Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902)

A précis of Ebenezer Howard's pioneering book by Juan Manuel Del Castillo
"How to stop the drift from the country? The labourer may perhaps be restored to the land, but how will the country industries be restored to rural England?" These are two of the main problems of the day. In order to give a proper answer to these questions, we need to consider two vital elements of English society, whose relationships shaped the aspect of present human settlements: the Town and the Country. Both present a series of advantages, like social opportunity and high money wages in the case of the Town; and the beauty of nature and fresh air low rents in the case of the Country. In contrast, they also present a series of disadvantages, like the isolation of crowds and the army of unemployed in the case of the Town; and the lack amusement and infrastructure in the case of the country. However, there is a third magnet, wich presents all the advantages of its predecessors and none of their disadvantages. The Town-Country magnet, thus, will preserve big chances of employment and public spirit with a sense of being close to forests and meadows. Since the average size of building lot in this Garden City is 20 by 130 feet, the density achieved will be of five and a half persons per house. Due to this condition, in order to obtain a general observance of street lines, municipal control is necessary. Moreover, regarding the services of the garden city and depending on proving capability, the private sector or the municipality can provide them for the whole town or for a section of it. Charitable and philanthropic institutions can also play an important role in the construction of public buildings. The Garden City, wich is to be built in the center of an area of 6000 acres, covers an area of 1000 acres and might be of circular form, 1240 yards from centre to circumference. It is divided in six equal parts by magnificent boulevards, that intersect each other in the centre of a circular space containing about five and a half acres, where a big garden is surrounded by all larger public buildings like the town hall, concert and lecture hall, library, theatre, museum and hospital. A wide glass arcade called the "Crystal Palace", runs all around the Central Park, encircling 145 acres with ample public recreation grounds within very easy access of all the people. Passing out from the Crystal Palace, we find a ring of excellently built houses and afterwards, we find the Grand Avenue with its 420 feet wide, that forms a belt of green dividing the part of the town which lies outside Central Park into two belts. In this splendid avenue we can find six sites reserved for public schools, playgrounds and gardens. On the outer ring of the town are a wide range of factories and markets fronting the circle railway, which encompasses the whole town and connects them with the main line of railway wich passes through the estate. All machinery is driven by electric energy, keeping the smoke well within bounds in the Garden City and resulting in a reduction of costs of electricity for lighting and other purposes.
The agricultural portions of the estate, which are to be held by various individuals in large farms, small holdings, allotments, cow pastures, etc., utilize the refuse of the town and are located after the first 1240 yards. The short distances between consumers and producers reduce the costs related to transportation and establish a fruitful relationship, that can lead, also, to the possibility of raising agricultural rents. It is an important part of the project that each ward, or one sixth part of the city, should be a complete town by itself. To this end, school buildings might serve, in the earlier stages, not only as schools but as places of religious worship, for concerts, for libraries, and for meetings of various kinds, so that all outlay on expensive municipal and other buildings might be deferred until the later stages of the enterprise. Before commencing on another, work would be practically completed in one ward. Those portions of the town site on which building operations were not in progress would also be a source of revenue, either as allotments, cow pastures, or, perhaps, as brickfields. The final scheme of the town would not be the work of one mind, but of many, the minds of engineers, of architects and surveyors, of landscape gardeners and electricians. The unity of design and purpose is essential, the town should be planned as a whole and not left to grow up in a chaotic manner. Four important elements of the project: 1. No landlord rent 2. A site clear of buidings 3. Economy arising out of a definite plan 4. The possibility of introducing machinery for engineering operations Parks are a significant portion of the scheme. Much of them will be left in a state of nature, but the municipality will also encourage sport clubs like cricket, tennis or football to place their facilities there. Democracy is the system chosen to rule the Garden City. A board of management will be elected to take charge of administrative affairs and it will be formed of a central council and departments, such as Public Health, Engineering and Social Purpose departments. Moreover, the board of management will also be in charge of controlling the shops and stores, specifically: 1. Induce tenants of the shopkeeping class to come and start in business, offering to the community adequate rate-rents 2. Prevent the absurd and wasteful multiplication of shops 3. Secure low prices, a wide range of choice, fair dealing, civility, etc. 4. Avoid the evils attending monopoly Regarding workers exploitation, it could be avoided encouraging the workers to do pro-municipal work, a well paid and rewarding kind of work. Finally, the way the Garden City should grow, in order to avoid a scattered form, should be a radial development. This is specially important when thinking about its application to London's present situation. The proposed siting of eight to ten new satellite towns and reservation of country belt is part of the radial and cellular future growing intended for the capital city. The most important matter for this respects, will be the building of one small Garden City as a working model, which eventually will lead to a group of cities that can interact with each other as has been previously described.

1 comment:

  1. What is meant by this line: All machinery is driven by electric energy, keeping the smoke well within bounds in the Garden City and resulting in a reduction of costs of electricity for lighting and other purposes.


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