Saturday05 September 2015

Rogers rejects call for more garden cities

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Richard Rogers has hit out at a new report recommending Britain builds a new generation of garden cities.

The report, released by the Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA) and developer Land Securities, said the country should tackle the housing crisis by taking inspiration from Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement in order to build high-quality, beautiful and inclusive developments.

But Rogers, whose Urban Task Force report recommended a focus on brownfield development in and around well-connected urban areas a decade ago, said the growing threat of climate change meant this approach remained the right way forward.

“I’m shocked by this,” he told BD. “The concept of an eco new town is an oxymoron…so I’m totally against this idea.”

“Garden cities were a fantastic idea 150 years ago but it’s time that the TCPA woke up to today and to today’s crisis. If Ebenezer Howard was alive today, I’m sure he wouldn’t be doing [garden cities].”

Rogers added that city development was the best way to build new homes because of their jobs, infrastructure and public transport systems with garden cities and new towns far more car-based.

“Cities are the most efficient thing,” he said.

The TCPA’s report suggests that learning the lessons of garden cities is key to overcoming the “stigma” of new communities being ugly and synonymous with inadequate provision of infrastructure.

TCPA chief planner Hugh Ellis said: “Today’s housing challenge is compounded by a financial crisis and an ageing population, as well as new global pressures from climate change and economic restructuring. We must find a way to move forward into a new era of building attractive, resilient and sustainable places.”


Readers' comments (11)

  • zecks_marquise

    vertical garden city anyone?

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  • I agree with Rogers on this one, redeveloping our existing urban fabric using imaginative and creative methods has to be that way forward. The suggestion of developing on green field sites sourly isn't sustainable, however ‘green’ the development is.

    Why not develop ‘green cities’ within our existing urban cities and brown field sites. Focusing our efforts on making our cities greener, cleaner places to live is the architectural challenge we should be taking on not running away from.

    D S Ranu

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  • HouseOfCopper

    I like some of the concepts and ideas involved in the garden cities ideology, especially the shape and design of the city in the illustration above.

    However, I would like to see the redevelopment of infrastructure in cities, rather than just moving on to the next plot of land.

    As a city is not some rigid creation of bricks,steel and mortar. But a living organism in a flow of motion and change; that people, creatures and their imaginations, and creations are part of and live in.

    As such the garden city is a Utopian concept, in that it is unrealistic and would likely create malaise, just becoming another alter of sacrifice

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  • in an ideal world i would agree with rogers, but unfortunately if you have to live in a shoe box apartment in a city where even balconies are not a standard requirement you would perhaps not be so against eco cities. have a look at east london. there are plenty of brownfield sites but there is nothing but more of a concrete jungle being created.

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  • HouseOfCopper

    One other bonus about the garden city concept is that it lights a fire in the mind...Wouldn't it be great to master plan a city in such a way that water ways could take you into the heart of the city.

    I find that in current times the human imagination has a dampener placed on it and cities lack a beauty that could and should part of their reality.

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  • Anon makes a good point. If you replace Garden Cities with New Towns you have a similar objective. I am a townie - I grew up in an industrial town, I did my time in London and I now live in a small (100k) town. Cities are indeed efficient, but you need to address the human in all this (which is what I thought architecture was about).

    Given the choice most people would prefer to live in a house, with garden, with low density accommodation. Outside London and the South East there are in fact many suitable locations that enable this within an urban context. Perhaps that is what needs to be addressed? Perhaps the core of the issue is that the UK is too South East centric?

    It would be interesting to see what the brand architects would do with masterplanning growth in a smalltown from 100k to 150k population, or, indeed, the reverse (as indeed is happening in many places). These, I think, are the true issues of the day rather than building new cities and towns.

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  • Munter Roe

    I'm sick of greenies.

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  • This ignites an interesting debate about the battle of the professions ... as an Architect I am not suprised that Rogers sees buildings (ie Architecture) as the way to solve our problems. I would argue that Town Planners (in the traditonal sense, not box tickers in develpment control) should be more involved, as should Landscape Architects (and a raft of other professionals). A well-planned new town or garden city can indeed be sustainable as long as it is well connected with public transport and people are not dependant on motor vehicles. It is time for all built environment professionals to work together to solve this one.

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  • Simon  Quinlank

    I don't think Rogers 44 storey private residential tower at the Elephant and Castle is the right solution either. But then he has a selective way of interpreting his own office's output.

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  • Families with young children will always want to live in a house with a garden. We can build high-density residential neighbourhoods by varying the mix of housing types. The right balance can provide compact neighbourhoods, green spaces, and enough people to support local transport services and local businesses.

    This is hardly a new finding though. Go back sixty years to the 1949 housing manual (published in Britain by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works) and you'll find it identifies this very approach. See here for an example


    Last year, MJP Architects also produced a report called Sustainable Suburbia that discussed high density housing in a green setting ("a walkable garden suburb"). This formed part of an exhibition at New London Architecture and you can see the exhibition panels here:


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