To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform

£90.00 (Hardcover)

Cover image

By Sir Peter Hall, Dennis Hardy, E. Howard, Colin Ward

Edited by N;

Published by Routledge, 2003

248pp

ISBN 978-0415317474

Review by Planning Perspectives


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To-Morrow: a peaceful path to real reformEbenezer Howard, Original edition with commentary by Peter Hall, Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward, London: Routledge, 2003.

To-Morrow, readers of will need no telling, is widely considered as the most important book ever published in the field of planning. Originally appearing in 1898, it is better known through the slightly revised second edition Garden Cities of To-Morrow, marked by some updating of the footnotes and, most importantly, variations in the diagrams [1]. The revised version was first published in 1902 and has in this basic form been reprinted in several subsequent editions, these differing mainly in their introductory texts and accompanying commentaries written by later followers of Howard. The second edition (not least its title) also provided the primary basis for the many translations which began to appear from the early twentieth century.

The original edition has, in contrast, been rather neglected, although it is not true, as David Lock claims in his foreword, that it has never before been reprinted. An American facsimile reprint, also published by Routledge in conjunction with Thoemmes Press, appeared in 1998 as the second volume of a nine volume collection of important early planning works [2]. Yet the technical quality of the present facsimile reprint is much superior to that of 1998. In particular, this version includes Howard's 1898 diagrams in their original delicate colours, something which proved far too expensive for the 1902 and subsequent editions of the book. Apart from being an exceptionally handsome volume, the present reprint also benefits by having a very full parallel and well illustrated commentary by Britain's most distinguished historians of the entire Howardian tradition. Overall, it richly deserves a place on planning library shelves and in the personal collections of readers of this journal.

The idea of making a fine volume of this type, befitting the intrinsic importance of the work, is not new. One of the founding editors of this journal and of the best known book series in planning history, the late Gordon Cherry, long cherished the hope of realising such a project. What has finally made it possible has been the active support of two bodies that deserve our particular thanks: the Town and Country Planning Association (founded in 1899 by Howard and his followers as the Garden City Association) and the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, celebrating its own highly successful centenary in 2003. Both have been eager to ensure that Howard's original vision is properly understood and that its continuing lessons are recognised.

The three commentators do a fine job fulfilling both these aims. At the most basic level they do extraordinarily well in identifying the many people quoted in Howard's text. In doing this, and through their page-by-page discussion and analysis of the substance of Howard's arguments, they make important new contributions to our understanding of the vision. This is no easy task because of the paucity of sources about Howard's life and work before 1898, the result of his widow unhelpfully burning most of his papers shortly after his death in 1928. But the diligence with which the commentators here pursue all the clues which Howard leaves in his text certainly adds to our knowledge.

Inevitably, though, like all attempts to understand Howard's original formulation, some points simply cannot be proven one way or the other. For example, Howard's choice of the very name 'garden city' must remain a matter of speculation. The commentators here repeat (on page 2) the common claim that it was copied from Chicago, where Howard lived for a few years as a young man. That city then certainly had the motto 'urbs in horto' (city in a garden), but Howard himself always denied the connection (as the commentators also recognise). Moreover, despite his palpable generosity in acknowledging the many sources of his inspiration, however obscure, he completely ignored the city in his book.

Another source of speculation must be what Howard would think of what has followed from his vision. The commentators here provide a thoughtful and informative postscript on the Howard legacy. The familiar limitations of all the many international exercises in planning 'along garden city lines' are discussed, along with the qualified successes of Britain's post-war New Towns. Not so long ago, the latter would have been portrayed as the crowning glory of the garden city tradition. Now there is, quite properly, a greater awareness of the limitations of the monolithic planning approach they represented, in contrast to the participatory basis for local community life which Howard wanted. In a larger sense, Howard's holistic vision and the concern to balance human needs in the widest sense and environmental sensitivity make him a precursor of our contemporary concerns with sustainable development. His remains a vision of great potency and salience, not just in Britain but on a world scale. In this respect, though, the key battles remain to be fought. The saddest point about the Howard legacy is that the majority of the world's population remain disinherited from it.

Stephen V Ward, Department of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford OX3 OBP, UK

References:

[1] E. Howard, Garden Cities of To-morrow, London: Swan Sonnenschein (1902).

[2] R. LeGates and F. Stout (eds) Early Urban Planning: 1870-1940, 9 vols, New York/London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press (1998). Howard's To-Morrow is Volume 2.

Review reproduced here by kind permission of Planning Perspectives