This post contains an essay submitted as part of student course work for the Planning 100 "Introduction to Planning" course taught by me this year at Planning School, University of Auckland. The topic for the essay is: Argue a case, either for, or against, the value of using utopianism as a method in planning the future of a modern city of your choice. The essay is about Auckland planning and is by Masato Nakamura, who has kindly given permission for it to be published here.
The Garden City and the Future of Auckland
The concept of the Garden City was created by Ebenezer Howard. The idea of the GardenCity addresses the urban issues that industrial cities in the late 1800’s. Many of the ideas within the Garden City are still applicable to many of the cities around the world, especially Auckland which is striving to become a world class city. The text will explore the different ideas present in the concept of the Garden City to address and propose solutions to themany issues Auckland faces as a city with the ideas created by Ebenezer Howard. The city of Auckland will continue to grow in the future, and that growth needs to be planned and managed for the benefit of the citizens who directly experience the effects of that growth.The issues present now are connected to each other. There is significant value in using theGarden City as a planning tool in Auckland city.
The concept of the Garden City was created and developed by Sir Ebenezer Howard, whenhe published the book ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow’ in 1898 and 1902. The Garden City Howard envisioned was a city that solved the many issues in the industrial cities of that time.One of the important ideas underlying the Garden City is the idea of the ‘Town country magnet (Howard, 2011).’ This was a concept to allow the best of the country and the city at the time to come together for the benefit of the people. Howard, in his book, ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow’ states that, “As man and woman by their varied gifts and faculties,supplement each other, so should town and country.” This concept of the town countrymagnet defines the Garden City.
Howards work simply aimed to come up with a solution to the horrible conditions of theindustrial cities in America and Europe. Although it is the urban form of the garden City that attracts the most attention, what Howard truly wanted was the social reform that was needed for the benefit of the people (Ward, 2002). The Garden City and the ‘town country magnet’ was a solution Howard proposed to solve the issues. The Garden Cities Howard established became new towns and the Garden City Association developed into the Town Planning Association (Hall & Ward, 1998).
The Garden City Howard proposed was detailed to fit its purpose. These are such as greenspace, parks for many uses, population limit and public transport (Hall & Ward, 1998).Howard proposed the amount of space a city should have, how many people live there andthe size and width of roads and parks. These different topics of an urban environment support the idea of Garden City, and it is these details that will change Auckland are apositive way when they are applied. The details and elements in the different ideas were put forward by Howard because they make up the idea of the Garden City as a whole.A key issue of Auckland City is its urban sprawl. The City stretches across two harboursengulfing rural open space seeing no end. This trend in the development of Auckland City iscausing other related issues, which also needs to be addressed. The issue of Urban Sprawl can be solved, or at least reduced by medium density housing. To solve the issue of urban sprawl, “Attached dwellings,” encouraging “higher densities in designated neighbourhood s(Simonds, 1994)” should be adopted. The housing ideas of the Garden City will beconsidered medium density housing in New Zealand. But it is also recommended that agiven suburb should offer a variety of housing within this constraint to have a diverse rangeof people in a neighbourhood (Taecker, 2002). The housing and property ideas in theGarden City will offer quality of nature and at the same time, resolving the issue of urban sprawl.
Another way in which the urban sprawl in Auckland can be solved is by establishing a greenbelt at a city level. A green belt in the Garden City concept is allocated for agricultural use (Howard, 2011). By restricting further development on the green belt, the sprawl can be contained within it. The benefit of the green belt is not only the containment of the city. The green belt that produces goods for the Auckland alone will reduce the ecological foot printof the city because less energy is used for transport. Another benefit of the green belt wouldbe the ecosystem services that it would offer to the region. The services the green beltwould offer will be filtering of the city’s water, habitat for insects that pollinate, andpreventions of floods on the basis that wetlands are present (Hirsch, 2008). The only issueof the green belt is that it will be very “vulnerable to development (Rooijen, 2002),” and the local government will have the responsibility to protect it. Due to these reasons, it iswithout a doubt that adopting of the green belt will be highly beneficial to Auckland City.The third way to manage urban sprawl is by establishing satellite towns along the main public transport routes from the Central Business District (CBD). This is a developed versionof Howard’s idea of a cluster of Garden Cities. This idea will produce, “all the economic and social opportunities of the giant city. (Hall & Ward, 1998)” The group of Garden Cities or main suburban centres around along the rapid transit routes will supplement each other function to as it does today. By applying this element of Howards Garden City in Auckland, it will be possible to reduce the strains on the roads and highways, which have been occurringfor many years, and will continue to do so in the future, without adopting this element ofthe Garden City.
It is very clear that Auckland City is centralised in the city centre. This is apparent with highincome jobs, major recreation locations and institutions being near the city centre. This iscausing a huge strain on the current infrastructure, environment and the social well-being ofthe people. It is evident that decentralisation needs to occur to certain level. A “moderate decentralisation, (Fisherman, 1977)” of the Garden City is desirable in Auckland City to solve these issues present today. The decentralisation will achieve better allocation of theelements listed above around the city for people to access and gain. The application of the Garden City will achieve a “planned metropolitan decentralization (Ward, 1992).”
To achieve decentralisation while maintaining the opportunities and choices for the people, especially from lower socio economic groups in Auckland, mixed land use is vital. The variety of land use should not only at the scale of street blocks but also at a scale of buildings as well. A variety of land use in a given suburb will give people a choice to use the servicesavailable in the area, reducing the need to go to the city centre to have access to them (Simonds, 1994). Furthermore, it is also important to have a variety of housing fit fordifferent age groups so that people continue to live in the area for a life time (Taecker,2002). By applying the idea of the Garden City, the allocation of services will improved, sothat people are not required to go into the Auckland CBD for different activities.A key improvement Auckland as a city must make to undergo decentralization is the public transport. At the moment, it is simply easier and more comfortable for a person to use a private vehicle, rather than taking a bus or train in Auckland. In the social reforming conceptof the Garden City, the need for a rapid transit system that interconnects each garden city ina group. A network of transit systems in an area of Garden Cities will support the movement of people, goods and services. The combination of transit corridors radiating out from thecentre city and orbitales that connect the garden cities or suburbs will shift more people tousing public transport (Hall & Ward, 1998). If this element of the Garden City is applied toAuckland, it will offer more choice in routes and methods to get to point A to B. Once these changes are made, but new development is still needed, major growth points could be established elsewhere (Hall & Ward, 1998), while maintaining the green belt. The application of the idea of the Garden City in terms of transport should be applied at an earlyphase of change to support the transition.
It is well known in Auckland that it is a poor pedestrian environment. This is in the parks arepoorly designed or placed and the streets are designed with the automobiles first in mind.These factors make Auckland City a terrible place to move around on foot. By decentralizing Auckland and applying other key elements on urban design from the garden City in thestreets. One way in which walking can become attractive to an average person is by “lining street trees and building fronts. (Taecker, 2002)” This will make the experience of walking pleasurable with more comfortable scenery present. Another way is to divert traffic into multiple paths to vehicle traffic and offer direct routes to local centres for pedestrians(Taecker, 2002). By making these changes to the urban design of Auckland, will allure peopleto walk more often, on the basis that jobs, services and recreation are distributed aroundthe city.
Green space is the most vital aspect of the utopian ideal of the Garden City. It is one of themain points of the idea of the ‘town country magnet. (Howard, 2011)’ Auckland as a city is introducing medium density housing; there is a possibility that the new development will follow the tracks of mega cities around the globe which try to fit as many people as they can.Although it is true that, “There is no such thing as excessive density, provided all required facilities, amnesties and open space are at hand. (Simonds, 1994)” The current medium density housing adopted lacks the green space which is vital for the social and environmental well-being of a city. It must be stressed that medium density housing is theright way to go in terms of the future of Auckland, but the social benefits of green space in cities from the idea of the Garden City must not be ignored.
The concept of the Garden City was created by Ebenezer Howard, who envisioned a societythat lived in harmony experiencing the best of nature and city. Although the book,‘Tomorrow- A True path to real Reform’ written by Howard addressed the urban issues of industrial cities at the time, it is clear from the research that his ideas will be able to solve the many issues of Auckland. Some elements of Howards work will be very beneficial to thecity which struggles with the issues such as urban sprawl. It is no doubt that the utopian idea of the Garden City will be extremely valuable to be used as a tool for planning thefuture of Auckland city. Especially when cities around the world are required to be comemore sustainable, the Garden City is a perfect model to achieving that goal. For without a model or signpost change for the future, the issues in Auckland will magnify and increase and there will never be change. Therefore, it is apparent that the Garden City is “highly valid as a planning model for the 21st century. (Rooijen, 2002)”
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