Cities Journal
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The Beauty Of Garden Cities

Boston, Massachusetts
Photo credit: wallyg / Flickr

More than a century ago, Sir Ebenezer Howard came up with the concept of garden cities. They were meant to be a combination of city and country and had a number of economic strategies meant to make them equally lovely for everyone.

Today, a garden city is really just a city with greenbelts and numerous gardens. Howard’s more ambitious ideas were scrapped very early on, as class disparity is very hard to shake, particularly in cities. Nonetheless, these cities offer beautiful landscapes that others are lacking.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts may not be the type of garden city that Sir Ebenezer Howard imagined, but it has been dedicated to maintaining parks and gardens since its establishment in the 17th century. In fact, it is home to the first public garden in the country, the Boston Public Garden.

Other notable garden city-type areas include the Back Bay Fens and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The former two gardens sweep visitors away from the city and tuck them among trees, flowers, shrubs, fountains and waterways.

Reston, Virginia

Reston is a planned community within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Its name is perhaps best known for the Reston Ebola outbreak, but its gardens are noteworthy. Lake Fairfax Park is one area where it is easy to forget the city. The Reston Association also rents plots for botanical gardens in several areas of the city annually, including along the Reston Parkway. Fans of flowers get to see something different every year.

Pinelands, South Africa

Pinelands is a garden city in Cape Town, South Africa. It is very much, compared to other “garden cities,” dedicated to Howard’s vision of garden cities and thus has a town center named after him. There are trees everywhere, giving the urban area a suburban feel, which is the precise point of such a neighborhood. It was the first planned community in South Africa, having been plotted to combat the overcrowding that led to a devastating outbreak during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Tapiola, Finland

Tapiola, like Pinelands, was built on the major principles of Howard’s garden city ideal. It was designed with population density restrictions, landscaping and healthy living in mind. It is meant to be self-contained, meaning there are as many jobs in Tapiola as the people of the community need to survive. The limits of consumption and over-building in Tapiola have made it a famous example of a modern garden city. Nature comes before architecture, according to the plans.

For some, a garden city is more than just an area surrounded by gardens or greenbelts. It is the spread out, carefully populated ideal set forth by Sir Ebenezer Howard. This ideal goes hand-in-hand with economical living, restricted fuel consumption and many other concepts that some believe are the only way to sustain the human population. That is the real beauty of garden cities.

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