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Will we live densely outside the big city?

One of the most interesting pieces I have read recently is Tom Holbrook of 5th Stuido’s description in the AJ of his idea for a garden city – a riposte to the suggestions in the Wolfson Prize. If you aren’t an AJ subscriber, you can read the whole thing on his website.

Holbrook has chosen a clever site, on the proposed route of HS2 where it crosses the soon to be revived Oxford-Cambridge railway line, and in an area with former brickworks providing a Tate Modern effect. It is also very near the Open University, which he foresees as having a campus there.

The gist of the idea is that this is not a garden city, but a city in a garden, a dense, tall place set within a beautiful and productive landscape. It will be raised up above subterranean activities such as logistics centres and car parking. It is an appealing notion and well thought through. But will people who are moving out from big cities be willing to live cheek to jowl with no personal external space? The advantages are obvious – density brings short travel times on foot, and the ability to concentrate cultural activities. But all that is fine for other people… Just as many people recognise the disadvantages of car use, but still choose to drive, so those who acknowledge the advantage of the dense city may still hanker for their own garden (I plead guilty to this).

Overcoming this may prove even more of a challenge for Holbrook than persuading the public sector that are gains to be made in such an investment. I hope I am wrong. It’s a great idea.

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