Exploring Garden Cities

Curious Minds Speaker Series
  • collage of a map and two buildings with trees


Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Feb 1 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Feb 8 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Feb 15 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Feb 22 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Mar 1 10:00 AM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Wed, Mar 8 10:00 AM
Film Info


Wednesdays, February 1 - March 8, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | REGISTER NOW

Not ready to commit? Single tickets are available at the box office on the day of class.

We have a mandatory masking policy (except while eating or drinking) for all in-person Curious Minds courses.

Can human society and the beauty of nature be enjoyed together? Can town and country be married?

For the English urban planner Ebenezer Howard, the answer to both questions was a resounding yes, and his Garden City movement, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, projected a green, utopian vision onto cities around the world at the turn of the 20th century.

In this new series from Curious Minds veteran Peter Harris (The Starchitects, The 1960s: From Berkeley to Berlin), we’ll take a colourful journey through the history of this influential cultural, architectural and urban planning movement and assess its fascinating legacy across the globe.

As we survey stunning gardens, neighbourhoods and cities from England to Australia, Tokyo to Toronto, we’ll explore the evolution of Howard’s utopian vision, the brilliant new designs of his critics and acolytes, and the way that innovative planners and architects have updated his principles to meet the growing challenges of life in the 21st century.

We’ll take a whirlwind tour of the world’s most beautiful cities.

This course is led by Peter Harris, the former Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto. He previously helmed the popular Curious Minds series The Age of Upheaval: The 1920s and 30s in Paris, Berlin and New York; The 1960s: From Berkeley to Berlin; and Designing the World: The Global Starchitects.

Course Registration: $69 (Hot Docs Members: $60, $48, Free)

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February 1: Arts and Crafts and the Garden City Movement

With its densely-packed factories and railway networks, the Industrial Revolution radically changed English rural and urban landscapes—and provoked a backlash from many artists and urban planners. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, with its stress on individual craftsmanship, Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City scheme sought a happy balance between rural and urban life.

February 8: The Movement Spreads

Howard’s ideas informed the creation of the cities of Letchworth and Welwyn in the UK, among others, and spawned a growing list of adherents in other Western countries. Germany’s first Garden City, Hellerau, appeared in 1909; New York’s Roycroft colony dedicated itself to Arts and Crafts ideals; and Toronto had a Garden City advocate in architect Eden Smith, whose Arts and Crafts designs still dazzle in Wychwood Park.

February 15: The GCM in Australia, Germany and the United States.

Focusing our lens on Australia, we can see the Garden City movement influenced the design of Canberra, Daceyville (in Sydney), and parts of Melbourne. Over in Germany, Bruno Taut completed several garden colonies in Berlin that are now UNESCO Heritage sites.

February 22: The GCM in the Post-World War World

The rise of the automobile and the flight to the suburbs dominated North American urban planning, until two radical thinkers offered an alternative vision: Rachel Carson turned our attention back to nature; and Jane Jacobs successfully challenged the dominance of the car and freeway. Could the Garden City movement be adapted for the post-war world?

March 1: The Re-invention of Urban Parks & Re-purposing of Industrial Sites

In cities across the globe, innovative planners and architects are reimagining the urban-nature relationship. We’ll explore the Promenade Plantée in Paris, the High Line in NYC and the Cheonggyecheon River reclamation in Seoul, before assessing the repurposing of old industrial sites like Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Refinery and Toronto’s Brick Works, Distillery District and Bentway.

March 8: The Greening of Architecture & City Planning

Plans for ‘green buildings’ are emerging around the world, from Milan and Copenhagen to Toronto and San Francisco. At the same time, new urban planning concepts, like the Future City and the 15-Minute City, hold enormous promise. But with the disruptions caused by global warming and a global pandemic, what is the future of the Garden City movement? We’ll assess the future path of Howard’s utopian vision.