The plan to solve the housing crisis in the UK by adding garden cities to 40 towns and cities has won an economic prize.
Last night, the Wolfson Prize was awarded to David Rudlin for his proposal to build connected satellite settlements around large towns.
Housing has been a problem in the UK for a long time. The policies adopted to address this issue have helped shape the UK’s urban form. The need for housing has led to industrialization, suburbanization, and inner-city estates with tower block buildings, as well as new towns or major extensions.
A renaissance in the Edwardian Garden City idea is attempting to counter the fragmented filling of urban centers, former industrial sites, or the gradual creep of suburbia through urban extensions. The original plan was to create new autonomous settlements outside the green belts that surround existing towns and cities. The idea was to escape the urban slums or “slums on wheels” that are long-distance rail commuters.
Garden cities were a big influence in the 1920s and 1930s on the large-scale suburbanisation. However, the concept was revived to solve the housing crisis of the postwar period. The programme was seen to be on a scale similar to that of the NHS. Total, around 30 new towns were built (from Stevenage to Milton Keynes, Harlow, Basildon and Basildon).
The Wolfson Prize has prompted planning and urbanism experts to re-examine the methods and intended of the garden city concept and adapt it to today’s needs to address the housing crisis. This is a significant moment for me as someone who has studied in depth.
David Rudlin’s winning entry is noteworthy in that it describes a principle whereby new settlements are built as satellites of any existing small or large city. The original idea of clusters of garden cities linked by transport is revived. They can all be distinct, but they can also support each other by sharing amenities such as leisure centers and employment hubs. Local authorities and communities can also benefit from the use of existing towns and cities as a model. The development will take place in areas where there is local support.
The original vision of the Garden City was a pastoral, Edwardian vision.
Both were a reflection on their eras: the idealized English suburban castle of interwar versus the technological optimism of the 1960s. The plans may reflect a desire for a return to the interwar ideal of an Englishman’s suburban castle or that the 1960s technological optimism will appeal to future Generation Xers and Yers.
The idea is that these places should be able to support greener living (decent-sized gardens, bike paths, public transportation), and in fact, the same thoughts were present when post-war towns were built. It is important to note that these towns were not just built to house workers who had fled the bombed-out inner cities but also to provide space for industries.
A new beginning was made with an attempt to redesign the way the city or town would function and develop a national industrial strategy. The city was to be healthy, clean, full of nature, and have jobs for the residents, as well as innovative, modern facilities.
The Rudlin proposal reflects a logic that is based on -linked new settlements. However, the real issue lies in the economic drivers of a particular place. The Rudlin proposal is in favor of localism, but economic development and connectivity are still the primary factors for new projects.
Rudlin’s study argues that quality is not only a matter of design but also economics. Their location clearly influenced the relative success of these new towns. Milton Keynes, located midway between London, Birmingham, and Warrington, at the center of the motorway system between Manchester, Liverpool, and Crawley, next to Gatwick, all benefited from this.