Plan of an Ideal Garden City
Engraving: from 'Garden Cities of Tomorrow' by Sir Ebenezer Howard (1902)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library
Control, logic and scale dominate this early plan for a garden city. Drawn by Sir Ebenezer Howard, the developer of Letchworth, in this is an ideal city industry is balanced with agriculture, housing carefully distributed, and transport rationalised.
By the careful positioning of features, there are clear similarities to the Victorian asylum plan at Claybury. However, the 32,000 inhabitants of this garden city are more mixed, by age, occupation and abilities. This is a utopian vision: a city where all are included and provided for. Along with brickfields, factories and markets are children’s cottage homes, industrial schools, convalescent homes, asylums for the blind and deaf, and even a farm for epileptics. This is a city for the strong and weak, and where the weak grow in strength.
Looking carefully, there are distinct oddities here. A Crystal Palace is to be included around the central park. A railway neatly circles the central area, making this ideal plan reminiscent of a toy train set. And there are the strange absences. Where are the churches in this new garden city? Perhaps nature is an alternative: curling with joy are the large allotment plots, and beyond are the glades of the new forests. It is no wonder this plan, and its progeny, like Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City and Hampstead Garden Suburb, were regarded as so visionary by many foreign architects and designers.