The Evolution of England’s First Planned Community

The Atlantic Cities, Jan. 12, 2012

In September 1901, 300 men gathered in Birmingham, England, for a conference on the city of the future. Back then, cities of the present left a lot to be desired. Severe overcrowding in urban centers across Britain meant that working-class families often crammed into tenements where privvies were scarce and disease rampant. Even if conditions in the big cities improved, many reformers believed, they bred a social inequality that was profound and intractable.

But there was an antidote to the moral and physical degradations of the metropolis, a new urban model that would be healthier for body and soul: the Garden City. This would be a self-contained community of 32,000 set amid farmland, far from metropolitan smoke and grit.

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Photograph by Lawrence Hurley