chapter  4
The boundary
Pages 13

The densities of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden and Social cities were so low, they could never be the only answer to the industrialised city’s woes. It was only a matter of time before building technology, and an architect bold enough to take its implications to their logical conclusion, would emerge to densify the Garden City almost out of all recognition. Thus ‘Modern town planning comes to birth with a new architecture’ (Le Corbusier 1987) in the form of Le Corbusier’s cruciform skyscrapers and blocks à redent in his Ville Contemporaine of 1922. These business and residential districts so command one’s attention, it takes a little time to realise that this is essentially a Garden City on steroids. The vastly higher residential and business densities – 400 and 4,000 people per hectare respectively – were justified by the benefits they provided, not only in terms of what was left untouched outside the city – sustaining farmland and forests – but also in terms of the quality of life inside it. High densities concentrated in high-rises allowed nature to be present in the form of parks and hanging gardens (‘[t]he whole city is a Park’). As in Howard’s Garden City, there was the same sharp differentiation between city and country, the same use of boundary to achieve it – the green belt – and the same optimism about humanity – ‘man is capable of perfection’. Corbusier was as convinced as his predecessor the French visionary Charles Fourier, of the power of ‘a general architecture to metamorphose civilisation (Fourier)’, or as it came to be known, ‘salvation through design’.