Radburn Concept

Radburn is located within the Borough of Fair Lawn, Bergen County, New Jersey, 12 miles from New York City. Radburn, a planned community, was started in 1929 by the City Housing Corporation from the plans developed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright. It is America’s first garden community, serving as a worldwide example of the harmonious blending of private space and open area. The intent was to build a community which made provisions for the complexities of modern life, while still providing the amenities of open space, community service and economic viability. The community was intended to be a self-sufficient entity, with residential, commercial and industrial areas each supplementing the needs of others. 

Radburn was designed to occupy one square mile of land and house some 25,000 residents. However, the Great Depression limited the development to only 149 acres. It includes 430 single family homes, 90 row houses, 54 semi-attached houses and a 93 apartment unit, as well as a shopping center, parks and amenities. It also consist of 

  •  Residential areas 
  •  149 acres of interior parks 
  •  Walkways 
  •  2 swimming pools
  •  4 tennis courts 
  •  Playgrounds 
  •  Archery plaza and a school 
  •  2 outdoor basketball courts 
  •  A community center, which houses administrative offices, library, gymnasium, clubroom, service and maintenance areas

Features of Radburn City 

  •  Super Block 
  •  Specialized Highway system 
  •  Complete separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic 
  •  Park as backbone of the neighborhood 
  •  Turned around houses 

Components of Radburn City 

Decentralized, self-contained settlements, organized to promote environmental considerations by conserving open space, harnessing and promoting community life. The main components include 
  •  Hierarchical transportation systems 
  •  Cul-de-sacs 
  •  Footpath systems 
  •  Underpasses 
  •  Shopping center 
  •  Ideal size of 30,000 people 
  •  Homogeneity 
  •  Large-scale development 
  •  Clustered superblock 
  •  Mixed-use 
  •  Interior park
Separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic - This was accomplished by doing away with the traditional grid-iron street pattern and replacing it with an innovation called the superblock. The superblock is a large block of land surrounded by main roads. The houses are grouped around small cul-de-sacs (dead end streets), each of which has an access road coming from the main roads. Finally, to further maintain the separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, a pedestrian underpass and an overpass, linking the superblocks, were provided. The system was so devised that a pedestrian could start at any given point and proceeds on foot to school, stores or church without crossing a street used by automobiles. 
The cul-de-sac or dead-end street came into use to eliminate through traffic in a positive manner. Cul-de-sac terminates in a circular to retain their inherent advantages, they should be short-a maximum length of 450 feet is recommended. Long cul-de-sacs, induce accelerated traffic speeds and render access for service and fire protection more complicated. It eliminates the necessity for the turnaround and provides the continuous circulation that is required by some communities to assure no interference with the accessibility of fire protection and other services.
Radburn city

The houses were oriented in reverse of the conventional placement on the lot. Kitchens and garages faced the road, living rooms and bedrooms turned toward the garden. Pathways provided uninterrupted pedestrian access to a continuous park strip, which led to large common open spaces within the center of the superblock. Since automobiles were given limited access to the ‘backs’ of the houses, the ‘fronts’ of the house were relatively quiet, therefore, the bedrooms were always placed on this side of the house. 
The parks were secured without additional cost to the residents. The savings in expenditures for roads and public utilities at Radburn, as contrasted with the normal subdivision, paid for the parks. The Radburn type of plan requires less area of street to secure the same amount of frontage. In addition, for direct access to most houses, it used narrower roads of less expensive construction, as well as smaller utility lines. In fact, the area in streets and length of utilities is 25% less than in the typical American street. The savings in cost not only paid for 12 - 14% of the total area that went into internal parks, but also covered the cost of grading and landscaping the play spaces and green links connecting the central block commons.

Failure of Radburn Planning 

  • The design of Radburn believed that people would actively use the front of the houses facing the greenways. In reality, people come and "leave" from the back of the houses and the vehicles, not pedestrian access. 
  • More people and children were walking and playing in the little driveways and cul-desacs than on the actual greenways. 
  • The market has repeatedly shown that homeowners prefer more personal land around their homes to living on tiny lots and sharing a large green space in common. 


1 comment:

  1. I grew up a mere 3 blocks from the edge of Radburn and remember the wonderful times playing in the center park which is surrounded by small homes. The park, with its stone bridges to walk under along the park paths, was particularly beautiful on snowy days of winter. Some of my best memories as a boy from 10 to 15 were in this park, which emptied out near the business area at the small shops. It was, and likely is, one of the best places you could grow up. If will never forget those days.