Having the opportunity to have lived outside the United States allows me to have a clear understanding of the effects of Evenezer Howard’s and Le’ Corbusier’s utopian cities in the development of neighborhoods around the world.
I was born in Colombia, South America, and I always lived in a neighborhood called The Garden (maybe not by coincidence). It had three sections. The first section, and the first one built, had one-floor houses and a narrow street crossing through the middle of it (top right section of the picture). The second section had two-floor houses, however, less houses than the first, and the street through the middle of it (mid-bottom left section of the picture). As years passed, the neighborhood became really popular among the middle class, and developers ran out of space. In consequence, the third section had six or seven six-story buildings on each side of the street, at the entrance end of the second section. This part is gated and it has its own parking lots, green areas, and security. The Garden had schools from pre-k to high school, including a private catholic school. It had one supermarket, small bakeries, one small restaurant-lounge, and one bar. There were no retail stores, nor any factories. At the time it was built, this was the suburban area of the city. Having learned of Howard’s “Garden City,” and Le’ Corbusier “Radiant City,” I can see why and how the neighborhood was built in this way.
The first section of the city had a couple hundred houses and only one public technical high school. The private school, built before the neighborhood, taught all levels of school, including kindergarten. The first section also had a nursing home for children, and a supermarket. The only church was built years later, and it was built in this section. This place was perfect for the growing middle class of the city, providing the ideal living conditions outside of the overcrowded city. The neighborhood had easy access to streets and transportation connecting workers to jobs, schools, and public facilities.
The second part brought the elementary school, and a second normal high school. It had more green areas compared to the number of houses, and more parking lots. The building of the third section brought the restaurant, the bar, and the bakeries, at the first floors of the street-facing side of the buildings. These transitions show the steps going from a “Garden City” project, to a “Radiant City” complement. As the income of the middle class grew, so did their living standards, and the two-floor housing on the sides of green spaces provided exactly what they were looking for. The building units diversify the options, and provided affordable housing for those concerned with security. A small bus station was also built at the end of the second section, away from houses and children, providing public transportation to those who did not own a car, and allowing mobility through all sections of the neighborhood. This evolution is valuable to understanding planning and development in a city living its best years in the late 70’s, the 80’s, and the early 90’s.
The Garden was part of a governmental initiative offering affordable housing to middle class citizens in a time when manufacturing and textile industries moved to town, and the cities, in general, needed to revitalize their infrastructure. Even though a large portion of the population was poor, these years were marked by housing development, and public interest policy strengthening the middle class. The late 80’s and the early 90’s brought more housing for the poor and lower middle class.
It is fascinating understanding the creation and evolution of the place I grew up in. Housing policy affects the social development of cities and countries, providing conditions for the creation of communities like the one of The Garden, where groups of people find the environment to raise families and contribute to the growth of society as a whole.