Image credit: © the Landscape Institute

20 September 2011

New exhibition at the Garden Museum considers 150 years of green visions for city living

Ever since the Victorians first longed to introduce more ‘green’ into their congested and polluted cities we have been striving for a better urban way of life. A new exhibition at London’s Garden Museum, From Garden City to Green City, explores the many visions, designs and projects that have inspired the ‘green city’ movement over the last 150 years. From the Victorian pioneers determined to improve living conditions in post-Industrialised Britain, to today’s ground-breaking landscape architects transforming our urban centres, the exhibition considers whether our current enthusiasm for eco-living and seasonality can make a lasting change.

The exhibition re-visits a time when areas like Brixton and Waterloo could be depicted as rural idylls – this green signature underlying London inspired the designer William Morris and the novelist Richard Jefferies to imagine a future in which nature takes over. It tells the story of the very first ‘garden cities’ in Letchworth and Hampstead and their founders Ebenezer Howard and Dame Henrietta Barnett and looks at their legacy in the town planning of the 20th century. It traces the impact of the Second World War and the wild flower meadows that sprang up in former bomb sites. It considers the work of contemporary visionaries like the Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori’s farming towers and Triptyque’s green-walled office building that collects, filters and mists water over Sao Paulo.

From Garden City to Green City opens the door on the many private green spaces that have been created by individuals, such as a London house with a wildflower meadow and insect hotel on its roof. It also considers the impact of community movements like ‘guerilla gardening’ and the sculptor Jamie McCullough’s Meanwhile Gardens in Kensington, now over 30 years old. And, with our increased awareness about modern food production it looks at the many experimental projects that have sprung up in recent years. From small, local projects like Abundance Sheffield and the Edible Bus Stop in London to the transformation of a disused industrial building into a vertical Alpha Farm launched at the Manchester International Festival 2011 it considers how we might tackle the ‘food miles’ problem.

The exhibition brings together books, works of art, photographs, design drawings, maps, diagrams and films to tell the story of the green city movement over the last 150 years.

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