Garden Cities: A flawed model for Ecological Urbanism?

Natalie Hall, Andy Jenkins, Greg Keeffe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Garden City model has been a predominant theory emerging from Ecological Urbanism. In his book Howard observed the disastrous effects of rapid urbanization and as a response, proposed the Garden City. Although Howard’s proposal was first published in the late 1800’s, the clear imbalance that Howard aimed to address is still prevalent in the UK today. Each year, the UK wastes nearly 15 million tons of food, despite this an estimated 500,000 people in the UK go without sufficient access to food. While the urban population is rapidly increasing and cities are becoming hubs of economic activity, producing wealth and improving education and access to markets, it is within these cities that the imbalance is most evident, with a significant proportion of the world’s population with unmet needs living in urban areas. Despite Howard’s model being a response to 17th century London, many still consider the Garden City model to be an effective solution for the 21st century. In his book, Howard details the metrics required for the design of a Garden City. This paper will discuss how, by using this methodology and comparing it with more recent studies by Cornell University and Matthew Wheeland (Pure Energies); it is possible to test the validity of Howard’s proposal to establish whether the Garden City model is a viable solution to the increasing pressures of urbanization.
This paper outlines how the analysis of Howard’s proposal has shown the model to be flawed, incapable of producing enough food to sustain the proposed 32,000 population, with a capacity to produce only 23% of the food required to meet the current average UK consumption rate. Beyond the limited productive capacity of Howard’s model, the design itself does little to increase local resilience or the ecological base. This paper will also discuss how a greater understanding of the
Land-share requirements enables the design of a new urban model, building on the foundations initially laid out by Howard and combining a number of other theories to produce a more resilient and efficient model of ecological urbanism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Planning
EditorsRob Roggema
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-1138183087
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Food, Society and the Environment


  • Garden Cities
  • Urban sufficiency
  • Resilience
  • Ecological Urbanism
  • Urban food production


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