Garden City

The garden city movement is a method of urban planning in which self-contained communities are surrounded by "greenbelts", containing proportionate areas of residences, industry and agriculture. The idea was initiated in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom and aims to capture the primary benefits of a countryside environment and a city environment while avoiding the disadvantages presented by both. 

Inspired by the utopian novel “Looking Backward” and Henry George's work “Progress and Poverty”, Howard published the book “To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform” in 1898 (which was reissued in 1902 as “Garden Cities of To-morrow”). His idealized garden city would house 32,000 people on a site of 6,000 acres, planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces, public parks and six radial boulevards, 120 ft (37 m) wide, extending from the centre. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another garden city would be developed nearby. Howard envisaged a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city of 58,000 people, linked by road and rail. 

Howard believed that all people agreed the overcrowding and deterioration of cities was one of the troubling issues of their time. 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. 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”. To Howard the cure was simple - to reintegrate people with the countryside. 

Concept of Three magnets 

He had no training in urban planning or design but excelled in creating places which he called “magnets” where people would want to come to reside and work. His garden cities were planned, contained communities surrounded by a green belt (parks), containing proportionate areas of residences, industry and agriculture. Garden city movement aimed at addressing the urban problems plaguing the industrial city of that time. Garden city concept was an effective response for a better quality of life in overcrowded and dirty industrial towns which had deteriorated the environment and posed serious threat to health. 

Garden city movement had the “Three Magnets” to addresses the question ‘Where will the people go?’ the choices being ‘Town’, ‘Country’ or ‘Town Country’.

Concept of three magnets


The pull of ‘Town Magnet’ are the opportunities for work and high wages, social opportunities, amusements and well – lit streets. It was closing out of nature, offered isolation of crowds and distance from work. But it came at a cost of foul air, costly drainage, murky sky and slums. Town life has good and bad characteristics. Positive and negative aspects of town include; 
  •  Social opportunity 
  •  Closing out of nature 
  •  Isolation of crowds 
  •  High rents and prices 
  •  Places of amusement 
  •  Foul air and murky sky 
  •  Chances of employment 
  •  Slums and gin palaces 
  •  High money wages 
  •  Costly drainage 
  •  Well-lit streets 
  •  Palatial edifices 


The pull of ‘Country Magnet’ is in natural beauty, fresh air, healthfulness. It offered natural beauty, low rents, fresh air, meadow but had low wages and lack of drainage. Country has dullness, lack of society, low wages, lack of amusements and general decay. Positive and negative aspects of town include; 
  •  Beauty of nature 
  •  Lack of society 
  •  Land lying idle 
  •  Hands out of work 
  •  Wood, meadow, forest 
  •  Trespassers beware 
  •  Fresh air 
  •  Low wages 
  •  Low rents 
  •  Lack of drainage 
  •  Abundance of water 
  •  Lack of amusement 
  •  Bright sunshine 
  •  No public spirit 
  •  Need for reform 
  •  Crowded dwellings 
  •  Deserted villages

Town- Country 

It was a combination of both town and countryside with aim of providing benefits of both and offered beauty of nature, social opportunity, fields if easy access, low rent, high wages and field of enterprise. Thus the solution was found in a combination of the advantages of Town and Country – the ‘Town Country Magnet’ – it was proposed a town in the country, and having within it the amenities of natural beauty, fresh air and healthfulness. Thus advantages of the Town – Country are seed to be free from the disadvantages of either. Town-country combination has the advantages of both aspects. 

  •  Beauty of nature 
  •  Peace all-over the places 
  •  Social opportunity 
  •  Cumulative growth 
  •  Fields and parks of easy access 
  •  Equal chances 
  •  Low rents- high wages 
  •  Low rates- plenty to do 
  •  Low prices- no sweating 
  •  Field for enterprise- flow of capital 
  •  Pure air and water- good drainage 
  •  Bright homes & gardens- no smoke, no slums 
  •  Freedom- co-operation

Principles of Garden City 

  • Co-operative holding of land to insure that the advantage of appreciation of land values goes to the community, not the private individuals 
  • Economic and social advantages of large scale planning 
  • Establishment of cities of limited size, but at the same time possessing a balanced agricultural industrial economy 
  • Urban decentralization 
  • Use of a surrounding green belt to serve as an agricultural recreational area

Features of Garden City 

An ideal garden city is a compact town of 6000 acres, 5000 of which is permanently reserved for agriculture. It accommodates a maximum population of 32,000. There are parks and private lawn everywhere. Also the roads are wide, ranging from 120 to 420 feet for the Grand Avenue, and are radial rather than linear. 
Commercial, industrial, residential, and public uses are clearly differentiated from each other spatially. Additional elements include unified land ownership –co-operatives, there was no individual ownership of land. Local community also participated in the decision making regarding development. As we can see in the diagram, there is a central park containing public buildings. It is surrounded by shopping streets which are further surrounded by dwelling units in all directions. The outer circle contains factories and industries. Rail road’s bypasses the town, meeting the town at tangent.
After a city reaches its target population, new interconnected nodes can be developed. A Garden city is built up and its population has reached 32,000. It will grow by establishing another city some little distance beyond its own zone of ‘country’, so that the new town may have a zone of country of its own.
Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden city

Circular city growing in a radial manner or pattern

  • Divided into six equal wards, by six main Boulevards that radiated from the central park/garden 
  • Civic institutions (Town Hall, Library, Hospital, Theatre, Museum etc. ) are placed around the central garden
  • The central park enclosed by a crystal palace acts as an arcade for indoor shops and winter gardens 
  • The streets for houses are formed by a series of concentric ringed tree lined avenues 
  • Distance between each ring vary between 3-5km 
  • A 420 feet wide, 3 mile long, Grand avenue which run in the center of concentric rings , houses the schools and churches and acts as a continuous public park 
  • The municipal railway was placed in another ring closer to the industrial ring, so that the pressure of excess transport on the city streets is reduced and the city is connected to the rest of the nation.

Main components of Howard’s Garden city movement 

1) Planned Dispersal 

The organized outward migration of industries and people to towns of sufficient size to provide the services, variety of occupations and level of culture needed by a balanced cross – section of modern society. 

2) Limit of Town Size 

The growth of towns to be limited, in order that their inhabitants may live near work, shops, social centers and each other and also near open country. 

3) Amenities 

The internal texture of towns to be open enough to permit of houses with private gardens, adequate space for schools and other functional purposes, and pleasant parks and parkways. 

4) Town and Country Relationship 

The town area to be defined and a large area around it reserved permanently for agriculture; thus enabling the farm people to be assured of a nearby market and cultural center, and the town people to have the benefit of a country situation. 

5) Planning Control 

Pre – planning of the whole town framework, including the road – scheme and functional zoning; the fixing of maximum densities; the control of building as to quality and design, but allowing for individual variety; skillful planting and landscape garden design. 

6) Neighborhoods 

The town to be divided into wards, each to some extent a developmental and social entity. Two garden cities were built using Howard’s garden city movement concept are Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City, both in Hertfordshire, England. 

Letchworth Garden City 

The first garden city developed in 1903 by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin was Letchworth garden city. It is 34 miles away from London. It has an area of 5000 acres with 3000 acres of green belt. It had an agricultural strip at periphery to check the invasion of urban area i.e. the sprawling. It showed Howard’s general principles, including the communal ownership of the land and the permanent green belt has been carried through. It was a town of homes and gardens with ample open spaces and a spirited community life. A great attention was paid to landscaping and planting.
  • Its plan was based on population of 30000 with living area of 1250 acres and 2500 acres of rural green belt. 
  • Communities ranged from 12000 – 18000 people, small enough which required no vehicular transportation. 
  • Industries were connected to central city by rapid transportation. 
  • In 30 years, the city developed with 15000 population and 150 shops, industries. 

Welwyn Garden City

It was the second garden city founded by Sir Ebenzer Howard and designed by Louis De Soissions in 1920 and was located 20 miles from London. It was a town visually pleasing and was efficient technically and was human in scale. 
  • It started with area of 2400 acres and 40000 populations. 
  • Had a parkway, almost a mile long central mall. 
  • Town laid out along tree-lined boulevards with Neo Georgian town center. 
  • Every road had a wide grass verge. 
  • In 15 years – developed with 10000 population and 50 shops, industries. 

Failure of Garden Cities

Letchworth slowly attracted more residents because it was able to attract manufacturers through low taxes, low rents and more space. Despite Howard’s best efforts, the home prices in this garden city could not remain affordable for workers to live in. Although many viewed Letchworth as a success, it did not immediately inspire government investment into the next line of garden cities. In frustration, Howard bought land at Welwyn to house the second garden city in 1919. The Welwyn Garden City Corporation was formed to oversee the construction. But Welwyn did not become self-sustaining because it was only 20 miles from London. Even until the end of the 1930s, Letchworth and Welwyn remained as the only existing garden cities.



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