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Utopia: the Garden City Movement

How one man's vision has affected the way we live today

The Garden City Movement

While some Victorian social theorists believed that poverty was self-inflicted, others took a more enlightened view. Poor sanitation and inadequate housing, they said, lay at the root of poverty. Solve that, and people's lives would be transformed. 

A radical new planning concept grew out of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This was more than just an artistic trend: at its heart was the idea that people's lives could be improved by good design. It worked on every level, from house building to furniture, fabrics and household items. It was a conscious rejection of featureless mass-production.

This was the Garden City movement. It began in 1898 when Sir Ebenezer Howard published his utopian book Tomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform, reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of Tomorrow. His book proposed a new way of thinking in town planning, and touched a nerve with his readers. His ideal city had no slums, cramped streets or featureless terraces. His developments had green spaces and variety instead, and developments were planned with the wellbeing of their occupants in mind rather than utilitarianism and financial gain.

The theory was put into practice in the early years of the 20th century. Newly planned towns such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City were built. On a smaller scale, garden suburbs were built, such as the one at Hampstead in London. This last was designed by Sir Raymond Unwin, who was to have an important role to play in the development of Swansea.

Find out more about Swansea's radical response to the housing crisis

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