Letchworth’s International Design Competition shortlisted for Planning Awards

David Ames, Executive Director Stewardship & Development, updates us about being shortlisted for the RTPI regional awards.

Earlier this month, we learned that the Foundation’s Reimagining the Garden City Design Competition had been shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) East of England Awards for Planning Excellence.

These awards celebrate projects and people who have helped create exceptional places and improved the lives of those who live and work there; highlighting how planning and planners work to create a safe, healthy and sustainable future.  

We are proud of how the competition captured the imagination of architects from around the world, highlighting that professionals in this field are still inspired and influenced by the garden city movement, and that Letchworth still plays and important role in the debate around new garden cities.

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About the Design Competition

In 2018, the Heritage Foundation ran an international design competition in partnership with the Royal Institute of Built Architecture (RIBA).  The aim of the competition was to reimagine the garden city concept and explore the key attributes of what would make a modern garden city.

Jane Duncan, Past President of RIBA, was appointed chair of the judging panel with partners from the TCPA, Anglian Water, BRE, University of Hertfordshire, Cushman Wakefield and Homes England, covering a range of disciplines, from urban agriculture and design to water management, sustainability and building technologies.

Ninety-five architectural practices from around the world entered the competition, including those based in America, India, Iran, Australia, Thailand, Germany, Spain and Thailand.  The brief sought to investigate modern garden city design and living using a housing development site in Letchworth Garden City as a case study.

The entries explored community, sustainability, water management, urban agriculture and transport.  Four of the entries were invited to develop their ideas further and to present them at an industry event hosted at the Houses of Parliament.  These proposals were then shared with the Letchworth community via our website and at an exhibition held at the Foundation’s offices in the town centre.   They also got the opportunity to vote for their favourite entry, which informed the selection of the winners.

Combining the best of the past with modern-day living

We are proud that Letchworth is the only garden city in the world to retain the original reinvestment model of land value capture, which means the money we generate goes back into the town through our charitable commitments.  This is central to how we operate, and through this competition we wanted to explore how to bring forward a new development that meets garden city values and principles, including this financial model, while meeting the needs of modern-day living.

The competition has reenergised the conversation around how garden cities are more relevant now than ever, especially as we learn to live with COVID-19. 

We are working with the competition winners to develop these ideas further leading to the creation of a vision that captures the Foundation’s desire to create a high-quality development but also to ensure that it benefits the whole town. 

While the final vision is not yet finalised, we envisage a neighbourhood with quality homes, improved access to the countryside, sustainable transport and a more biodiverse environment.  For the community, we will create apprenticeships and learning opportunities for people of all ages.  

We look forward to presenting our vision to the community soon and having conversations with them about how this development could influence towns and cities around the world for the next 100 years.  

Tune in to hear who wins

The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on 19 November, which can be watched online. We are up against some outstanding entries, but whatever the outcome, we are proud to be flying the flag for modern garden city design and Letchworth.