During the day, he took shorthand notes of the meetings of the British Parliament commission, in the evenings he taught Esperanto, and in his spare moments he reflected on the model of the ideal city. Ebenezer Howard – we are talking about him – came up with the idea of creating a garden city. His idea, or, according to some, a utopia, he outlined in his book, written in 1898, better known from the second edition (1902) called “Garden Cities of the Future.” In theory, this idea was supposed to be an antidote to the ill effects of the industrial revolution and overpopulation of large cities. In practice, it turned out to be not entirely effective.
According to the project, in garden cities, the advantages of living in a green space were to be combined with the achievements of civilization inherent in urbanized areas. It was assumed that the center of such a hybrid would be a garden, and public buildings would be located around it: a town hall, a museum, a library, a hospital. They, in turn, will be surrounded by a park, and roads will diverge radially from the center, forming alleys with recreational, residential and other facilities. On the periphery, there are agricultural territories designed to ensure economic self-sufficiency. The public square was to become public property, and territorial development and population density were to be controlled. Time has shown that only complete harmony of the city and nature turned out to be unreal.
There was also a dreamer in Poland who strove to make the city healthier. Vladislav Dobrzynski, a doctor by training, continued Howard’s work. He admired the way the British realized Howard’s idea: he especially liked the town of Letchworth Garden City – he even said that “cities from a fairy tale have become reality.” In 1909, Dobrzyński created the Garden City Commission of the Warsaw Society for Hygiene. In architecture, Dobrzynski was a self-taught, idealist, whose plans for a “beautiful garden-suburb of Warsaw” never materialized.
Dobrzynski argued that, due to the political and social conditions of Poland, it was impossible to realize Howard’s concept in its original form. The creation of exemplary projects in the areas of Zombka and Mlochiny near Warsaw was suspended due to the war in 1914. They did not return to them later. Poland was content with a replacement: gardens in the suburbs and green neighborhoods within the city.
The closest to the ideal was the town of Podkova Lesna, which, together with the towns of Milanowiek and Brwinów, forms the so-called “Trójmiasto Ogrodów” (“Garden of Three Cities”). The city center is a concentric horseshoe-shaped structure. Her heart, or, in Korea, a park with a pond is a place to meet and relax. It also has connections with major urban centers (which was important for Howard): in the 1920s, a railway station was opened in the city. Soon after, the exquisite villas were drowned in the greenery of squares, gardens and forests. The most famous of these, Villa Aida, was the center of artistic life. The Ivashkevich family, Karol Shimanovsky, poets of the Scamander group and other famous people stayed here. However, Podkova Lesna and Milanowiek differ from the Victorian vision of a garden city in one important detail: they do not replace a metropolis, but serve as a kind of “utility room”. As they say, work in the city, live outside the city.
At one time, the creation of green areas was popular. Such enclaves in the concrete jungle are the Wlochy and Zoliborz districts in Warsaw, Kamennaya Gora in Gdynia, Dzezenta in Lublin, Gishovec in Katowice, Wilcz Gardlo in Gliwice. Some of these projects belong to the famous urbanist Tadeusz Tolwinski. The workers’ quarter of Nowa Huta, which later became part of Krakow, was also created with the idea of a garden city. By the way, Howard himself had visited Krakow many years before that: in 1912 he participated in the VIII World Congress of Esperantists held in this city, admired the local landscapes and called Krakow “a garden city in natural development.”
From time to time, Howard’s concept is revived. However, economic self-sufficiency, a return to nature and its complete harmony with civilization still remain an ideal rather than a reality.