Ebenezer Howard lives in Shanghai

By Bryan • china, shanghai, urban planning • 23 May 2009

…while Le Corbusier is rocking Lujiazui (Pudong) like it’s 1951.

Well, maybe it is a stretch to claim that ole’ Ebenezer’s vision is appearing in Shanghai of all places, but there are some definite deliberate shades in Shanghai’s regional growth form and strategy.  I choose the word strategy over plan as apparently it is more of the “seat-of-one’s pants” variety where everything can change in a day.

Ebenezer Howard of Garden City fame was one of the first, possibly first, to put forth city planning ideas as we know them today.

Howard envisioned a Garden City that would be home planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces,  area for residences, industrial activity and agriculture, public parks and six radial boulevards extending from the centre. When the Garden City reached capacity, another would be be built nearby, connected via a The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, a further garden city would be developed nearby connected to the others by a rail system.   The final product would be a cluster of garden cities acting as satellites to a larger central city.

File:Garden City Concept by Howard.jpg

It is fairly easy to exclude the Garden from what is being created in Shanghai and it is possibly apt to also remove the agricultural aspect of Howard’s vision, but the form is strikingly similar.

2001 the Shanghai government a directive to construct “one city and nine towns” which aimed to address the increasing movement of manufacturing and industrial activities to the periphery, the urbanization of rural areas and the decentralization of the population – known collectively as the “principal of dispersion-concentration’ in Shanghai (reducing population from central area).

Each new town is to be connected via rail and a regional highway network (not shown on the map).  From other maps that I have looked at, the road network appears to be complete, while the rail is well on it’s way.  While the network isn’t in Howard’s concentric pattern, it does connect each new town with the center city.

I’m somewhat reminded of the interlinked rail network in Tokyo, but I don’t think the areas on the periphery of Tokyo were planned from the ground up like these.

The really bizarre section of these strategy is the style each of these new cities is to take.  In a effort to break with the traditional monotony of new city development and create a sense of “identity” and “place”, the Shanghai government opted to look to the international community for inspiration with the following results…

Each new city would introduce townscapes from Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, The United States and Canada…with two of the new towns following a traditional ‘old China’ format.

Canada, or Maple Town failed to materialize, but the others are either completed or nearing completion.

  • Songjiang, British
  • Anting, Jiading District, German
  • Luodian, Baoshan District, Scandinavian
  • Zhujiajiao, Qingpu District, south China water town
  • Fengjing, Jinshan District, Canadian
  • Pujiang, Minhang District, Italian
  • Gaoqiao, Pudong District, Dutch
  • Zhoupu, Nanhui District, USA
  • Fengcheng, Fengxian District, Spanish
  • Buzhen, Chongming District, China traditional

I’m hoping to visit each one….apparently “ThamesTown” in Songjiang is quite something…

Maybe not so Garden after all.

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