Chengdu’s Garden City proposal vs Ebeneezer Howard’s original garden city: The initial Idea

Chengdu was first proposed to be developed as a Modern Garden City by town planners because of the clear natural advantage that the area had in comparison to other major Chinese cities. Chengdu itself was placed within a rich mountainous region, which meant that there was an abundance of greenery in comparison to more crowded cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and more resources to work with. Because of this, the Chinese government placed a lot of effort into developing Chengdu so that the city would be able to compete as one of the Nations’ Major cities, and one of the main cities in the west of China. The advantage of abundant greenery became something that the city planners could also work with to create an active tourist spot within this western region of China, while simultaneously creating a more green environment for the existing residents of Chengdu.

Ebeneezer Howard Garden city vs Chengdu's garden city
Fig 1. Ebeneezer Howard Garden city vs Chengdu’s garden city Source: 王菲. 2012. “一个现代田园城市的探究 The Study Material Of The Modern Garden City”. Presentation.

The way in which city planners approached Chengdu’s layout was similar to Ebeneezer Howard’s initial Garden City.  Howard’s original plan was used as a way to control overcrowding within larger cites, which was formed by masses of people from surrounding rural villages traveling to the main city for work. Howard proposed the idea of a garden city system to create a functioning society embracing both of these urban and rural qualities, the job opportunities in the city and the natural environment in the countryside. Chengdu’s garden city is an iteration on Howard’s 1901 garden city plan with developments made to combine the initial garden city planning idea (consisting of a vast transportation network, the green belt and surrounding satellite cities) into a much more urban and politically driven context such as in Chengdu where the Chinese city development plan and existing environmental condition is also taken into consideration.

Fig 2. ‘198’ Green Belt surrounding Chengdu Source: 王菲. 2012. “一个现代田园城市的探究 The Study Material Of The Modern Garden City”. Presentation.

 

However, one main difference between the approaches of China and Ebeneezer Howard is that nowadays since transport and movement is much more common and the scale of growth is much bigger, the intents of creating this garden city in Chengdu is less about combining the urban and rural lifestyles of the people and is instead more about creating a “Green Megapolis” as an urban centre to drive up the economy of the city and create an attraction to this central area.

Fig 3. Aeriel rendering of how the city and the green belt merge to create the “Green Megapolis” of Chengdu Source: 王菲. 2012. “一个现代田园城市的探究 The Study Material Of The Modern Garden City”. Presentation. 
  1. Source: 王菲. 2012. “一个现代田园城市的探究 The Study Material Of The Modern Garden City”. Presentation.
  2. Zhao, Nan. 2012. “Evaluation Of Chengdu’s Garden City Project By Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Theory”. Master of Community and Regional Planning, University of Oregon.

 

2 Comments on “Chengdu’s Garden City proposal vs Ebeneezer Howard’s original garden city: The initial Idea

  1. This is a very compelling analysis of the link to the Garden City treatise. But you have also noted that it is potentially a form of “green-washing” to drive the viability of a sense urban center, rather than a real social Utopia. The comparison of the government plans and Howard’s plans are strong. But can you draw out direct quotes from the government report and plans, so you can present the rhetoric of this vision, or the weakness of this historical link?

    PS. Please add date and full citation of the original source from the government. It is important to cite the original producers or agencies of these plans and renderings.

  2. There are good observations about the differences between Howard’s plan and Chengdu’s own reworking of the Garden City, and one does get the sense that the latter is a failed copy of the former, emptied of much social and economic reform. It would be great to see more concrete examples of how this plays out (e.g. the neglected smaller green spaces). If Howard’s plan had social underpinnings, China might argue that socialism is already embedded in its political and economic system, one that is divorced of and regardless of the plan. We have learnt that plans are always driven by interests, theories, politics etc. Would Howard’s theories still be relevant today? Would you consider the Chengdu plan as substantially different, or an evolution of Howard’s plan, adapted to today’s global economics and China’s scale? On another note, the City Plan of Chengdu does not seem to have been posted correctly.

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