Co-op’s garden city plan scoops £250,000 prize

An urban design co-op has won the Wolfson Economic Prize 2014 for its vision of garden cities built on to existing towns. The prize sought ideas on how best to...

An urban design co-op has won the Wolfson Economic Prize 2014 for its vision of garden cities built on to existing towns. The prize sought ideas on how best to deliver a new garden city which is “visionary, economically viable and popular”.

The winning proposal by David Rudlin, manager of Urbed, would provide around 3.5m new homes in England. He said the best way to satisfy housing demand was to allow existing centres to expand by taking a “bite” out of the Green Belt but protecting the rest of it.

His vision beat more than 270 other entries to win the £250,000 award; the second biggest cash prize in the world after the Nobel Prize.

The submission, developed with Nicholas Falk of Urbed, illustrates how to double the size of the fictional city of Uxcester, then applies the ideas to Oxford.

There has been cross-party interest. Labour and the Liberal Democrats want more garden cities and Chancellor George Osborne recently unveiled plans for a garden city in Ebbsfleet, Kent. But many Conservatives fear building in the green belt may be politically damaging.

Nicholas Falk said: “Our research showed that it was practically impossible to build a new garden city from scratch; it needed to be grafted on to ‘strong root stock’, because the costs of infrastructure are greater than the value released by building the new homes.

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“We wanted to see if it were possible to achieve an ambitious and long term aim of doubling the population of Central Oxfordshire without any loss to the quality of life that residents already prize. In particular, could Oxford grow in a similar way to its twin city of Grenoble, France’s ‘high tech capital’, or to Freiburg in Germany.”

Urbed is an employee-owned co-op with 11 staff and associates, comprising planners, architects, an economist and a sustainability expert. It has offices in Manchester and London.

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