Beyond “Complete Urbanization:” Uncertainty, the New ‘Urban-Rural Connectivity’, and the Garden City Model


  • Celina Kress Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technische Universität Berlin



Urban-Rural, Garden City


Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s hypothesis of a “society that
results from a process of complete urbanization,” (Lefebvre, 2003, p. 1) was first published in 1970. Lefebvre insisted on the advent of an “urban society,” and he forecasted the “complete subordination of the rural to the urban.” At the time this expressed revolutionary thinking and protest against modernist planning ideas, represented by the Athens’s Charter functional city principles or the related concept of the ‘urban landscape’ (Stadtlandschaft). Lefebvre was not the only one campaigning for the revaluation of the inherited city. The American journalist and urban activist Jane Jacobs was another influential agent of the urban. Her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities already in 1961 had delivered a harsh critique of the “verities of orthodox modern city planning and architectural design” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 17), and aggressively attacked Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-morrow (1902). 1 In 1970 she further went in line with Lefebvre when arguing for a new and reverse understanding of the priority of cities in early human history: “Cities First – Rural Development Later” Jacobs entitled the first chapter of her second book (Jacobs, 1969) which appeared simultaneously with Lefebvres favouritism of the urban. 2 This united campaigning in favour of the city led to a sharp polarization of the urban and the non-urban space.
Subsequently we tend to generally place the city in the centre while at the same time devalorising sub-urban or rural areas. Actually, cities and their regions as well as rural areas are both affected and connected by new developments, such as: demographic changes, gentrification processes, technical innovation, changing values and lifestyles, fiscal problems, climate change and energy crisis. Against this background it is important to newly conceive and create a space of equal encounter, exchange, and co-operation of the urban and the rural. There is the thesis that modern utopias, as the Garden City model, could offer helpful advices and tools towards this aim.


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