Jerusalem’s New City: the Embodiment of Garden City Principles in Neighborhood Development and its Impact on Segregation I

After the old walled-city became identified as the ‘Holy City’ with British arrival and was set for perservation and restoration, the urban development of the city turned to the vast valleys outside the original city walls. While there had been developments outside of the city wall before British arrival, they were usually of small scale and were located close to the city walls, and they fed on the urban functions that happened inside the old city. The British’s ban on development in the old city encouraged the build-up of a new city of complete urban functions to the west of the city wall, with commercial downtown, new residential buildings, and various institutions, effectively relocating Jerusalem outside its walls.

More importantly, however, is the time that this new city of Jerusalem developed: the 1920s, at the height of modernism and the availability of modern transport technology. The construction of arterial roads that radiates from the old centre of Jerusalem greatly expanded the footprint of the city and changed the scale on which the city operates. Population dispersed to newly built suburbs away from the centre, alleviating the pressure on accomadation and density in the old developed area.

Jerusalem developed at a time when the idea of the Garden City, first proposed by Ebeneezer Howard, was at its height of its influence. This has profound impact on the development of the new residential neighborhoods in the new city, in terms of both the wider urban spatial distribution of the city, as well as the design and, consequently, the living quality and style of the residents.

The development of the Garden City of Jerusalem drove it away from what McLean had envisioned in the very first British urban plan, in which he implanted the typical colonial grid system that is similar to what a lot of American cities adopted. Notice how he treated the boundaries of this plan that he drew up, indicating the unending possibility to further expand this grid.


McLean's Plan for Jerusalem, 1919
McLean’s Plan for Jerusalem, 1919


However, the actual urban development of the new city took on a very different approach. Residential areas were built as seperate neighborhoods that scatters through the basin of Jerusalem, on lands along major road arteries that were zoned for residential purpose. This trend is reflected in later urban planning shemes for Jerusalem, when grids are replaced by master plannings of main roads and land uses.


Main residential neighborhoods built during the British mandate period, 1917-1948.
Main residential neighborhoods built during the British mandate period, 1917-1948.


Another influence of the Garden City development, albeit unintentional, is the possibility for clear spatial separation of urban space bewteen the Jews and the Arabs, as can be seen in the mapping above. Arabian neighbourhoods are usually scattered to the north and and south of the old city, while Jewish neighborhoods to the west, except some further down south such as the Talpiot neighborhood. The development of the city in terms of neighbourhoods rather than a network of urban grids completely altered the spatial relationship between people of different religion. While the latter would blend different people together, the former made the lives of these different people always geographically separated. Given that the original agenda of the British mandatory administration is to help with the ultimate independence of Palestine as a state of various religions, the Garden City principle in effect created a spatial quality that goes against the original agenda to blend people together.



KARK, R. and OREN-NORDHEIM, M. (2001) Jerusalem and its Environs – Quarters, Neighborhoods, Villages 1800-1948. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press.

KROYANKER, D. (1994) Jerusalem Architecture. London: Tauris Parke Books.

1 Comment on “Jerusalem’s New City: the Embodiment of Garden City Principles in Neighborhood Development and its Impact on Segregation I

  1. On the road towards modernisation in Middle East countries, there is always disparity between the conceptual plan and the actual outcome, often leading to a result that deviated much from the original intention. It is interesting to see how the Garden City movement was influencing the city planning of Jerusalem, giving that the condition of the movement in the United Kingdom was to separate functional zones and hierarchy of classes, but in the case of Jerusalem, it ended up with segregation of religions. This could be another example showing that the western ideology of modernisation could not be forcefully applied to another country which has an entirely different cultural and religious background.

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