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The garden city idea in the CIAM discourse on urbanism: a path to comprehensive planning

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Over a period of three decades, from 1928 to 1959, the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) formed an unconventional working team and a complex laboratory of progressive ideas for designing the city. During the founding years of the organization and the transatlantic emigration of many of its major figures during the second half of the 1930s, a profound engagement with the most important trends in the European and North American debates on planning had become the critical foundation for their common task. The organization's consequent basic convictions and demands summed up the most effective maxims of the discipline since the turn of the century. Officially, CIAM tried to distinguish itself from traditional urban planning and instead advocated modern urban planning as the antithesis to everything that existed previously. Seen from a historical perspective, however, numerous points of connection – in particular to the garden city movement – become very clear. The various members of CIAM were deeply influenced ideologically by Ebenezer Howard's visions for urbanism. Personal contact to representatives of the garden city movement, active involvement in its institutions, and broad implementation of Howard's ideas in the context of European and North American planning led CIAM from the analysis of the functions of the existing city to a comprehensive design of the modern city.

Keywords: CIAM; community planning; comprehensive planning; decentralization of the city; garden city; greenbelt towns; regional planning; systematization of urban functions; transatlantic dialogue

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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