31 ottobre 2013

Lucia Tozzi | Founding cities: Archaeology of the new town

   Charley in New Town is a short animated film created by the British government's Central Office of Information (COI) in 1948. Charley - an "everyman" - is weary of the alienating life of the big city and decides to head for somewhere more salubrious, with trees, bicycles and friendly neighbors. It could be Roosevelt's America, or Mumbai today. What makes it original is that his move isn't to some generic rural area or gated community, but to a new town, designed with the common good in mind.

   The model put forward by this government cartoon was that set out in the New Towns Act(1946), which adapted Ebenezer Howard's "garden city" concept to an age of welfare and post-war reconstruction. These widely celebrated English new towns were the result of highly advanced thinking that tackled urban congestion by eschewing both suburban sprawl and uncontrolled high-density development. They gave priority to transport and services, offering a relational complexity that is lacking in the solutions imposed in subsequent decades by the dullest products of modernism. This is not to say that those towns, or their imitations scattered around the globe, are the most attractive, intelligently conceived, or most radical from an urban planning point of view - far from it. Nevertheless, they embodied ideals of egalitarianism and redistribution of wealth that no project since, however outstanding, has managed - or even aimed - to embody.

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