Growing Letchworth

Drawing on Ebenezer Howard’s original vision for Letchworth, our proposal for Letchworth’s new garden city is for a vibrant, economically and environmentally sustainable development which supports and involves a growing community. Our landscape-led masterplan embeds the principles of urban agriculture, landscape maintenance and land management training into the core of the place, celebrating connections to the rural landscape and providing new facilities for the whole town. These proposals were developed by ourselves in collaboration with Roundfield Landscape Architects and Etude Sustainability Engineers.

Client: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, RIBA Competition
Competition: 2019
Location: Letchworth

SWA was shortlisted among 4 practices out of 95 submissions for the second stage of the competition.

A Landscape Led Development

Key to this masterplan is a strong relationship with the environment. The landscape infrastructure draws on the existing green routes through the site. It extends and connects to the greenway, offering different types of recreational space in Letchworth to attract people from the existing town and surrounding areas. This will create an active and recognisable place before the new community is established, creating a desirable place to live which is welcoming new residents as they move in.

The site-wide strategy is for a connected place which prioritises walking, cycling and other sustainable forms of transport. Neighbourhood parking clusters provide parking for vehicles accessible from the main streets. The remaining streets are pedestrian priority ‘home zones’ enabling social interactions, play and shared use of the streets. These long ecology corridors are part of the SUDS strategy and provide opportunities for local agriculture and neighbourhood play.

Overview of Proposed Neighbourhood Layout
Housing Typology Case Study

Health of the Country, Comfort of the Town

‘Health of the country, comfort of the town’ was a driving aspiration behind the original Garden City. We reinterpret this for 21st century as ‘Health of the town, comfort of the home’. The development is intended to promote the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants at three different scales of inhabitation.

1. The Home

Each house is made with healthy materials (timber) and designed using passivhaus principles which ensure a level of natural ventilation, daylight and thermal comfort for every inhabitant. The core thermally efficient envelope of the house can be added to over time to create spaces for the home to connect to its environment without affecting its thermal performance.

View of Neighbourhood Streetscape

2. Neighbourliness

Neighbourliness is fostered by creating spaces in the masterplan for social interaction and impromptu meeting where informal encounters can take place. The buildings and surrounding spaces are arranged to encourage relationships between people that live beside one another.

Open and Public Neighbourhood Spaces

3. The Community

Direct access to landscape and recreational areas allows inhabitants to exercise as an integral part of their daily lives and helps improve mental health. Locally grown food offers a healthier alternative but also creates a positive attitude towards food and food production through shared projects and education.

The Social City

It has been proven that regular social interaction far outweighs any other health intervention in improving physical and mental wellbeing, increasing life expectancy and combating loneliness. The masterplan embeds this in its layout. At the level of the home, shared streets and pedestrian friendly spaces encourage outdoor play, chance encounters and good neighbourliness. Small pockets parks and shared workspaces also increase the likelihood of meeting and making friends. Everyday encounters are encouraged by co-locating travel, communal and shared facilities, that are part of daily routines.

Street Typology Study

Innovative and Flexible Housing

Ebenezer Howard’s model for Letchworth was radical and ground-breaking at the time, accompanied by a variety of experimental housing models and innovative use of materials. Our proposals for a new flexible housing model are equally inventive, allowing for variety and flexibility with a high performance envelop and models which can be adapted appropriate to location and demand.



Innovative and Flexible Housing