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The garden suburb of the Garbatella, 1920-1929: defining community and identity through planning in post-war Rome

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Situated in the industrial district of Ostiense, the Garbatella neighbourhood was primarily designed to house railway and dock workers built by the Istituto per le Case Popolari (ICP), a national building society founded in 1903 dedicated to public low-cost housing. The Garbatella distinguished itself from other ICP neighbourhoods in Rome by its remote location and its experimental Garden City-influenced design, adapted for a Roman context. The first period of construction from 1920 to 1923 saw the Garbatella develop along the lines of Ebenezer Howard's model of the Garden City. While those who planned the neighbourhood continued to aspire to Howard's ideals, the Garbatella's rapid expansion (by 1930 it boasted the highest population density in the city) meant that it failed to live up to these aspirations. Despite increased population levels and the construction of larger multi-functional 'super-blocks', the architecture and planning of the Garbatella contributed to the fostering of a sense of community and a distinct Roman identity. This article investigates the way in which this architectural style established a 'dialogue' with and drew inspiration from the city's rich and varied history, while contributing a new layer to the urban palimpsest of Rome.

Keywords: Garbatella; Rome; garden city planning

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Rome Study Center, University of California, 700186 Rome, Italy

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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