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Ebenezer Howard

London, United Kingdom
1 of 11

Sir Ebenezer Howard (29 January 1850 - 1 May 1928) was the founder of the garden city movement. He is known for his publication To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898), the description of a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together with nature. The publication resulted in the founding of the garden city movement, and the building of the first garden city, Letchworth Garden City, commenced in 1903. The second was the Welwyn Garden City (1920) and the movement influenced the development of several model suburbs in other countries, such as Forest Hills Gardens designed by F. L. Olmsted Jr. in 1909, Radburn NJ (1923) and the Suburban Resettlement Program towns of the 1930s (Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; Greenbrook, New Jersey and Greendale, Wisconsin).

Howard was born in Fore Street, City of London. He was sent to schools in Suffolk and Hertfordshire, which he left at 15 and began working as a stenographer in London. In 1871, influenced partly by a farming uncle, Howard emigrated with two friends to America. He went to Nebraska, and after his farming efforts failed, discovered he did not wish to be a farmer. He then relocated to Chicago and worked as a reporter for the courts and newspapers. He arrived to Chicago just after the great fire of 1871, which destroyed most of the central business district, and witnessed the regeneration of the city and the growth of its suburbs. By 1876 he was back in England, where he found a job with Hansard company, which produces the official verbatim record of Parliament, and he spent the rest of his life in this occupation. Howard's time in parliament exposed him to ideas about social reform, and helped inspire his ideas for the Garden City. It was the social milieu of the 1800s which led Howard to consider the social problems of the time and try to find alternatives.

Garden Cities of Tomorrow

The only publication he wrote was To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, which was significantly revised in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow. Garden Cities of To-morrow was based on ideas of social and urban reform. Garden Cities were to avoid the downfalls of industrial cities of the time such as urban poverty, overcrowding, low wages, dirty alleys with no drainage, poorly ventilated houses, toxic substances, dust, carbon gases, infectious disease and lack of interaction with nature. This book offered a vision of towns free of slums and enjoying the benefits of both town (such as opportunity, amusement and good wages) and country (such as beauty, fresh air and low rents). He illustrated the idea with his famous Three Magnets diagram, which addressed the question 'Where will the people go?', the choices being 'Town', 'Country' or 'Town-Country'.

Garden Cities of Tomorrow proposed that society be reorganised with networks of garden cities that would break the strong hold of capitalism and lead to cooperative socialism. It proposed the creation of new suburban towns of limited size, planned in advance, and surrounded by a permanent belt of agricultural land. These Garden cities were used as the model for many suburbs. Howard believed that such Garden Cities were the perfect blend of city and nature. Howard believed that a new civilisation could be found by marrying the town and the country. The towns would be largely independent, managed by the citizens who had an economic interest in them, and financed by ground rents on the Georgist model. The land on which they were to be built was to be owned by a group of trustees and leased to the citizens.

The Garden City Association

In 1899 he founded the Garden Cities Association, known now as the Town and Country Planning Association.His acquaintance with German architects Hermann Muthesius and Bruno Taut resulted in the application of humane design principles in many large housing projects built in the Weimar Republic. Hermann Muthesius also played an important role in the creation of Germany's first garden city of Hellerau in 1909, the only German garden city where Howard's ideas were thoroughly adopted.

The creation of Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City were influential for the development of "New Towns" after World War II by the British government. This produced more than 30 communities, the first being Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and the last (and largest) being Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Howard's ideas also influenced other planners such as Frederick Law Olmsted II and Clarence Perry. Walt Disney used elements of Howard's concepts in his original design for EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

In 1913 Howard founded the 'Garden Cities and Town Planning Association' - presently the International Federation for Housing and Planning. Its goal was to promote the concept of planned housing and to improve the general standard of the profession by the international exchange of knowledge and experience.

London, United Kingdom