Is ‘Garden City’ Urbanism the Answer?

Could garden cities help fix these problems? Advocates think so. They argue that garden cities can deliver the humane, sustainable, equitable communities that people want and the planet needs, by slashing emissions, preserving green space, and encouraging neighborly interaction.

Today, garden-city projects are popping up from England to India to Cambodia. In particular, China, where construction rates have exploded since the early 2000s, has become a petri dish for garden cities. Among several planned communities is Heart of Lake, designed by Stern’s firm and currently being built on an island in Xiamen. “We are being asked to do interpretations of it in other Chinese cities,” Stern says.

But many, if not most, of these new garden cities and suburbs will look nothing like Forest Hills Gardens. They will be bigger, taller, and denser. Heart of Lake, for instance, will pack 2 million square feet of construction into a mere 25 acres and include high-rise apartments. It’s also unclear that these projects will adhere to core garden-city values, including community ownership and the mixing of social classes. What’s more, there is little data to prove definitively that garden cities are in fact the right solution for urban ills; firm figures on their environmental, social, and other impacts are hard to come by when no two projects look alike.

Amanda Kolson Hurley writing for Foreign Policy about the history of ‘garden cities,’ and their unlikely resurgence.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons