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Suburban paradox? Planners' intentions and residents' preferences in two new towns of the 1960s: Reston, Virginia and Milton Keynes, England

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The current drive to promote high densities in the planning and construction of new communities should not be allowed to obscure the success of low-density new towns. Both Reston in Northern Virginia, and Milton Keynes, in the county of Buckinghamshire, England, planned during the 1960s, have become popular with their residents: they now live in new towns recognized for their overall low densities and suburban ethos. Yet the original planners of these towns had markedly 'urban' intentions in mind. They aimed for compact living clusters within a tamed countryside of parks and open spaces. Local employment parks would also obviate the need for large-scale commuting. These intentions, however, were not fully implemented. This was most clearly evident in relation to housing. The original planners had preferred a vision predominantly characterized by late-modern urban housing styles. However, popular tastes within the housing market led the subsequent managers of Reston and Milton Keynes to more fully embrace traditional–vernacular models of suburban domestic architecture. These styles complemented the wider countrified setting of the new towns. The following discussion demonstrates the gentle paradox that Reston and Milton Keynes, planned as alternatives to suburban sprawl, became rationalized and attractive suburban entities. The comparative approach within the article also proves the undoubted popularity of suburban living in both England and the USA.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: April 1, 2002

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