British Architects Ridicule Government Plans for 14 New “Garden Villages”

British Architects Ridicule Government Plans for 14 New "Garden Villages", Houses in Hardwick "Garden City," a suburb of Chepstow in Wales, that was built in the early 20th century. Image © <a href=''>Geograph user Ruth Sharville</a> licensed under <a href=''>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>
Houses in Hardwick “Garden City,” a suburb of Chepstow in Wales, that was built in the early 20th century. Image © Geograph user Ruth Sharville licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Yesterday, the UK Government announced plans for 3 new garden towns and 14 new “garden villages” across England, expanding a plan that already includes 7 previously announced garden towns. Explaining the concept of the garden villages, the Department for Communities and Local Government described settlements of 1,500 to 10,000 homes, saying that together the 14 locations have the potential to deliver 48,000 new houses. In order to expedite the creation of these new settlements, the government has set aside a fund of £6 million (US$7.4 million), which housebuilders will be permitted to use in order to accelerate development at the sites.

However, the architectural community in the UK has mocked the proposals and the government’s use of language, highlighting what appears to be a poor understanding of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities concept. Many have also pointed out that the plans are relatively meager in a country that, by many estimates, is falling hundreds of thousands of new homes short of the number needed every year.

Today we’re announcing 14 garden villages & 3 garden towns to help provide the new homes we desperately need 

@GavinBarwellMP We had New Towns. Then Ecotowns, didn’t work. Garden Cities, ditto. Now Garden Towns & Villages. What next?

Speaking with ArchDaily, Charles Holland—co-founder of Ordinary Architecture and a former member of FAT—said: “I think the idea of new villages is a very interesting and important one which I have been researching at the University of Brighton. As part of an answer to the current housing crisis, I think new villages offer a plausible model that could reflect changing work patterns and the role of digital culture. This could facilitate a sort of reverse modernity or rural futurism—a migration from urban to rural.”

However, regarding the UK government’s announcement, Holland was less positive: “As for the ‘garden’ bit, well that seems like a lazy, unthreatening way to evoke places like Letchworth minus the radical model of communal land ownership that was an essential part of Ebeneezer Howard’s original vision.”

Garden Villages = shite suburbia that happens to be built on public land

The garden prefix will not gussy up the same inadequate housing policy, served up in smaller and more lukewarm portions every year

Others were also pointed out how the original socialist intentions of the Garden City movement were at odds with the government’s plans, with writer Gillian Darley referring to an article from 2012 which criticized a previous misuse of the term by the government:

Here we go again … a reminder blog:  via @LRB

Photo published for Gillian Darley: Garden Cities

Gillian Darley: Garden Cities

David Cameron has been playing fast and loose with the term ‘Garden City’, almost as if he didn’t know that its origins lie in Victorian utopian socialism. The First Garden City (that is, Letchworth)…


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