Ebenezer Howard: Facts, Ideologies, and Questions…

Hello Everyone,

My research paper is focused on answering whether or not the Garden City Movement has had a positive, reconnecting influence on the lost relationship between people and nature. I am arguing that despite his efforts to reconnect people to their environment through a number of natural incorporation’s, his plans were too idealistic and did not work within a capitalist framework of society; however, his ideas should not be discredited because they provided an alternative to existing paradigms and has had some success in reshaping the city planning process.

We spent a few classes discussing Howard and his ideas, so I believe some of you may be interested in learning a little more about his life, ideologies and accomplishments.

It is said that there were two major inventions in the beginning of the twentieth century; the invention of the airplane, and Ebenezer Howards’ creation of the Garden City. Howard was born in London in 1850 and was the son of a shopkeeper. He travelled to America at the age of twenty one, taking on 160 acres of land in Howard County, Nebraska to plant cucumbers, watermelon and potatoes. He returned to jolly old England five years later and invented the famous Remington typewriter. He married Elizabeth Ann Bills, had three sons, and one daughter.

Howard was intrigued by radical liberal thinkers, those desiring liberal reformation, and the benefits of socialism. He embraced spiritualism. With Charles Darwin’s publishing of Descent of Man, Howard found himself involved in a religious crisis and moved towards “Modern Spiritualism”.  Howard began to believe that he had acquired a God-given order of the world, and therefore, the path of humanity relied on his concept of city planning to reach a level of higher civility. Also, the enlightenment of individuals would lead humanity into accepting his grand design and its inherent existence in the order of the universe.

Influenced by the Garden City concept, the Garbatella neighborhood was designed to house railway and dock workers built by the Instituto per le Case Popolari (ICP). This neighborhood a low-income housing project aimed at providing for the lower working classes in Rome, and could easily be distinguished from other Roman cities built in the nineteen-twenties. The Garbatella was one of the most successful children of Howard’s ideas, mainly because the inhabitants aspired to his ideals. Nonetheless, the Garbatella failed to live up to its high expectations because of a rapid expansion and the resulting population density that were not characteristic of the model Garden City. In 1922, the city only had 3,400 citizens and four years later reached upwards of 24,000!  Although it did not meet its full potential, the Garbatella still exhibited signs of an extra communal neighborhood and distinctive Roman individuality. With the rise of Mussolini and his Fascist regime, the Garbatella was transformed the appearance, but its character and communal unity stayed intact.

What do you guys think about his Garden City concept? Are there any positive outcomes that come out of his planning, or is it all too idealistic and romantic of society? Does a natural landscape, and closeness of a ‘hinterland’ improve your living conditions?  Does Kelowna have any reminiscent traits of a Garden City? Exciting stuff…..I know your as intrigued as I am.

Summary of October 11, 2012.

The Third Wave (1895-1905)

Edward Bellamy– American author who wrote Looking Backward, in 1887. 

  • Society is based on socialism.
  • Equality to all citizens.
  • Money is valueless, you are given what is needed.
  • Technology and mechanization leads to production.
  • Centralized government.
  • Influenced Ebenzer Howard.

Piotr Kroptin- The father of anarchism and author of Fields, Factories, and Workshop in 1898.

  • Society is based on communism.
  • Autonomous social units.
  • Emphasis on agricultural rural life.
  • Influenced Ebenezer Howard.

Theodor Fritsch- An anti-Semitic German publisher who wrote,  Die Stadt der Zukunft in 1896.

  • Anti-capitalist society.
  • Medium sized towns.
  • Open landscapes.
  • Circular planning that concentrates around nucleus and grows outwards.
  • Influenced Ebenezer Howard.
Our classes Utopia’s
  1. Danieltopia
  2. Zachtopia
Daniel’s vision of a utopia. Includes several agricultural zones for the production of food, and green zones for leisure and comfort. The city center, protected by a moat and ferocious dragon, contains the marketplace for trade and commerce. His residential areas are connected to the center through separate transportation networks.
  • High density, but green-space is abundant.
  • Universal Education and Health Care.
  • Inhabitants earn opportunities by working towards it.
  • Reformative justice.
  • Legalization of alcohol and marijuana, but authority over harder substances
  • Governed by science and logic.
  • Social Democracy.
Josh had also shown plans for his ideal city. If you could please post your drawing it would be appreciated!
Discussion on Ebenezer Howard
Howard envisioned a low-density city of approximately 30,000 inhabitants within a one and half mile diameter. Agricultural land would take up 6,000 acres of land, while parks accounted for 145. Neighborhood units were to be self sufficient and easily accessible.  Surrounding the city city was Greenbelts of 5,000 acres. He wished to marry the concepts of country and town within his Garden Cities to provide the comfort of rural life and the accessibility of urban centers.