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The topic of garden villages was delivered to us by a member from IDPartnership on ‘Placemaking in the Garden Village Tradition’. He highlights case studies from the North Eastern region such as the regeneration scheme of Byker and the project in South Seaham. He begins with questioning us,

How can we make a better future for everyone? How can we build a healthier environment of communities to live in?[1]

He further supports this with demonstrating Ralph Erskine’s ideals of garden villages along with Gordon Cullens’ approach in understanding the notion of space which particular interested me.

Image 1 Types of Settlement

In Image 1, we can clearly distinguish between all types of settlements.

Firstly, what is a garden village?
Garden village concept was to deliver housing, jobs, centre for health and well-being hub, all within an attractive landscape setting mainly for working class people.

Image 2: Masterplan of Welwyn Garden City

The concept of garden villages, towns and cities dates back from 1920, to which Welwyn Garden City was a prime example founded by Ebenezer Howard (, 2019). Garden City not much different to Garden Village was defined as a primary ownership by public or trust held by the community with the focus of living healthy in a social, physical and cultural planning principles of that time.

Image 3 Garden Cities regional planning diagram by Ebenezer Howard

The term ‘garden villages’ was associated with smaller planned communities which longed in its history of Britain. In 19th century, the rapid boom of cities and town caused crisis in housing, health and social aspects in Britain which allowed philanthropic industrialist and social activist to develop the ‘model village’[2]. The developments of garden village were small, independent communities that were linked yet separate from the town or a city.

Image 4 Kendal Street, Byker, mid-1970s

This was old Byker a key example of the time, a generic housing layout for working class people which was designed having inadequate living spaces that led to overcrowding when the number of families grew.

Can the characteristic of a historical model of garden villages help inform newly designed and delivered garden villages of 21st century?

I am interested in the principles Erskine proposed when he was appointed to prepare the masterplan for Byker in 1969, he stated;

To maintain to all extent the value, traditions and characteristics of the neighbourhood and the relations with the surrounding areas and to the city of Newcastle, the main concerns will be the focused neighbour that need rehousing and pattern of life. To exploit the physical character of the site, site slop and its views and orientation.[3]

What is really lost in the modern way of thinking of architecture and urban design is actually engaging with the people you are designing for and with what the urban fabric has to offer. He was really pushing this system of how residence can be independent in the ownership of designing their homes so that the character and the sense of place is not lost.

In 21st century context, how are the principles aiming to create a vibrant, diverse and affordable communities?

The framework for delivering accessible work, healthy living and sociable communities is demonstrated in the diagram below.

  • A sense of commonality where homes are clustered around courtyards.
  • A sense of landscape and play where street furniture can be a node of community interaction.
  • A sense of pedestrian primacy where green links is enhanced perhaps to grow your own food.
  • A sense of connectivity allowing ease of access through local transport systems e.g. Walking, cycling and public transport.
Image 5 The Garden City Principles Model

The approaches Erskine’s had a profound influence in todays garden villages across England such examples are Bournville near Birmingham and New Earswick in York.

Alexander Garvin an urban designer once said,

‘Urban planning should be defined as a public action that will produce a sustained and widespread private market reaction.’[4]

In other words, if we don’t encourage human activity and their exchange through public realm then we are likely to fail achieving economic value of our local neighbourhoods. My reflection to visualise the framework is to how Gordon Cullen perceives towns capes. He expresses the drama of juxtaposition between different elements of the in between spaces and the architecture to which it is surrounded by. From understanding his drawings, these elements clearly visualise a deeper sense of an environmental context: trees, water, traffic, buildings, nature that weave together to create a diversified community (Cullen, 1996).

Image 6: Cullens’ Serial Vision

What will the future vision of a garden village look like?

Reflecting my thoughts on the lecture and additional research on garden villages, I feel the older population will be the integral part of the community. As it is a non-urban district, it should aim to promote exchange of skills and community learning, live and work settlements and generally have varied housing types for different user groups and accessible public transport for employment.

If you have got some insight on this topic please comment below and share your thoughts!

Thank you for reading!


  • Cullen, G. (1996). The concise townscape. 1st ed. London: Architectural Press, pp.7-8.
  • (2019). Welwyn Garden City. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].
  • [4] Gallacher, P. (2009). Everyday Spaces. London: Thomas Telford Publishing, p.11.
  • PLACES FOR ALL AGES: DELIVERING THE FUTURE GARDEN VILLAGE. (2015). [PDF] Barratt Developments PLC, p.7. Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
  • [1] [3] Massey, M. (2019). Place Making in the Garden Village Tradition, [Online Recap Lecture] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019].
  • [2] Understanding Garden Villages: An Introductory Guide. (2018). [ebook] London: Town and Country Planning Association, p.4. Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].

Image References:

  • 1st image – PLACES FOR ALL AGES: DELIVERING THE FUTURE GARDEN VILLAGE. (2015). [PDF] Barratt Developments PLC, p.7. Available at: [Accessed 15/11/19].
  • 2nd image – WGC HERITAGE TRUST, Masterplan of Welwyn Garden City. Available : [Accessed 21/11/19].
  • 3rd image – Garden Cities regional planning diagram by Ebenezer Howard. Available: [Accessed 21/11/19].
  • 4th image – Kendal Street, Byker, mid-1970s. Available: [Accessed 21/11/19].
  • 5th image – Understanding Garden Villages: An Introductory Guide. (2018). [PDF] Barratt Developments PLC, p.3. Available at: [Accessed 15/11/19].
  • 6th image – Cullen Serial Vision. Available: [Accessed 21/11/19].

One response to “The Garden Villages: Past, Present & Future…”

  1. Thank you Ameeta, for your insightful post about the Garden Villages and in particular the mention of how this inspired Ralph Erskine’s designs for Byker Wall Estate.
    Garden villages as you mentioned, were designed primarily for working-class people. I believe it was amongst these ideals which inspired Ralph Erskine in his attempt to regenerate Byker Wall Estate in the 1970’s. What interested me, however, was whether he was successful in his attempt to socially mix the existing communities with new ones after the redevelopment?
    There is little evidence that ‘social mixing’ (or gentrification in disguise) actually effects positive change across different classes within society.[1] But I wonder whether it does even amongst the same class. “To maintain to all extent the value, traditions and characteristics of the neighbourhood”[2] – as you mentioned, these were some of the principles that Erskine thought integral, so what went wrong? Was the attempt to manufacture bonds and friendships within the estate what they truly needed from the new development, or rather just upgraded living conditions?
    Although the existing community were at the forefront of the planning and development of the regeneration of Byker[3], there was something which caused them to not return. Even though it was intended to be designed for the existing neighbourhood, fewer than 20% of the people who lived there previously, returned to the new estate.[4] In recent years Byker Wall has been named ‘best housing estate’[5] and ‘best neighbourhood’[6] and even been given Grade II listing; so it’s intriguing to me as to why a place which is getting all these accolades, wasn’t up to standards for the neighbourhood in which it was created for.
    Was it not enough that there were some communal areas? It may have also benefited from some activity to be injected into it such as shops or some form of entertainment to truly encourage people to come together, rather than relying on people to cross paths naturally. Forcing people to integrate will never work, but there is a definite domino effect when people see some form of activity, they are more inclined to follow suit.

    [1] Loretta Lees quoting Walks and Maaranen in, Gentrification and Social Mixing: Towards an Inclusive Urban Renaissance?, The Urban Studies, 2008.
    [2] Mark Massey, “Place Making in the Garden Village Tradition” (November 14, 2019).
    [3] Anna Minton, “Byker Wall: Newcastle’s Noble Failure of an Estate – a History of Cities in 50 Buildings, Day 41,” The Guardian, May 21, 2015, [Accessed: 9th January 2020].
    [4] Minton. [Accessed: 9th January 2020].
    [5] James Draper, “The UK’s Ultimate HOUSING ESTATES Revealed: Newcastle’s Byker Wall Is Unlikely Winner in Urban Awards Top 10,” Mail Online, November 10, 2017, [Accessed: 9th January 2020].
    [6] Joe Shield, “Byker Wall Estate Is Officially the UK’s Best Neighbourhood,” Newcastle Magazine, November 13, 2017, [Accessed: 9th January 2020].

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