Reading between the lines: the dark side of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of To-Morrow

Paul Emmons


Untitled-1How do we know when it is appropriate to ‘read between the lines’ of a text? Oblique writing threads a controversial message within a more conventional fabric. Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), who has been cast as the father of the garden city movement, is our case study. His Garden Cities of To-Morrow (1898) has been in print since its initial publication and continues to influence architects and town planners after more than a century. His book’s diagrams are so widely reproduced as to be immediately recognizable. However, there is another story in his text and images, an esoteric story that is embedded within the book yet is widely overlooked. Throughout his life, Howard was deeply committed to and influenced by spiritualism. This presentation will highlight the dark side of Howard’s work by examining his written clues and sources for key diagrams. The historical effort to cleanse Howard’s image in order to present him as an honored professional unduly narrows a truer understanding of the full origins of his innovative thinking.



Paul F Emmons, Associate Professor, School of Architecture and DesignPaul Emmons is a registered architect and Professor of Architecture at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center of Virginia Tech where he directs the PhD Program in Architecture + Design Research. He earned an MArch from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. His research focusing on the theory of architectural drawing practices has been presented around the world and is widely published. He is co-editor of The Cultural Role of Architecture (Routledge, 2012) and Confabulations: Storytelling in Architecture (Ashgate, forthcoming 2016).