Shaping sustainable urbanism : Are garden cities the answer?
Canberra’s planning is famously informed by ‘city beautiful’ ideas reflecting approaches found in Hertfordshire’s garden city settlement history, heritage and contemporary lived experience; but can these design and planning ideas work to deliver ‘sustainable urbanism’ in future - in Australia or elsewhere? In the United Kingdom, with the advent of the new Localism Act, the National Planning Policy Framework and a shortage of politically acceptable responses to pressing needs for new urban development and revitalisation, there is renewed interest at both the level of theory and practice in the capacity of garden cities to contribute to making sustainable places and communities. Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has promised to "apply the principles of garden cities" as part of his government’s overhaul of planning in England while the Town and Country Planning Association, founded by Ebenezer Howard, argues that the vision of combining the advantages of “the most energetic and active town life, with all the beauty and delight of the country” has again gained momentum in housing and urban development sectors. Building in part on research and analysis undertaken at the University of Hertfordshire, this paper supports the presentation given at the Shaping Canberra conference and compares British, Australian and other experience of garden city and city beautiful geographies, designs and architectures in shaping - and now ‘retrofitting’ and building anew - the planned city. It explores whether these ideas can be situated as part of the perceived problem of low density sprawl, or can be understood as an aspect of a space shaping solution based on walkable, compact, fine-grained, mixed-use, intensively-used and diverse cities that will be resilient in the face of climate change.