Garden Cities: the provocation

Garden Cities: are they still relevant?

Introduction to the Debate
17 April 2013, London
Hosted by Grosvenor

It’s not unusual for particularly resonant ideas to be appropriated to support diverse agendas. ‘Garden cities’ has been repackaged over the past century to reflect the latest iteration of the ever-popular, romantic appeal of living in an environment that combines the perceived advantages of town and country living.

The original ideals of Howard, Unwin and Parker – that “the advantages of the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country, may be secured in perfect combination” – have been copied, reinterpreted, compromised and misrepresented over the past century. Inter- and post-war municipal housing estates; 1960s new towns; the proponents of ‘new urbanism’, have all promoted images of how we could and should live in harmony with each other and with the environment, drawing from the legacy of the originators.

For those responsible for meeting the demand for housing, economic well-being, social justice, cultural diversity and energy efficiency, this popular ideal has to be translated into practical, affordable, fundable and politically realistic components.

This event will try to by-pass the political and environmental hyperbole and identify fundamental and unique characteristics by which we might define this particular kind of settlement. It will explore the extent to which it demands a green field site and whether such characteristics might be applied through the adaptation of existing settlements.

It will explore the economic bases for such communities and whether the original principles of common ownership, walkability and self-sufficiency are realistic today.

If there really is a future for ‘garden cities of tomorrow’ how can we support the initiatives of the Town and Country Planning Association and others in bringing it about?


This provocation was produced by Steven Bee AoU, Director of the Academy, as part of the Academy’s debate around the relevance of Garden Cities. The debate will be held on the evening of Wednesday 17 April 2013, and is hosted by Grosvenor.

For more information on the Academy and Garden Cities, please contact Stephen Gallagher on +44 (0) 20 7251 8777 or email

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