Garden city


Garden city

Why such a name?

The term “garden city” evokes mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s associated with a small village immersed in greenery, where grandmothers make pancakes and lilacs grow in the gardens. On the other hand, there are gardening cooperatives established around Tallinn during the Soviet era. This is why the actual background of this concept needs to be explained again.

The concept of a garden city was first introduced by English urban planning pioneer Ebenezer Howard in 1898. Throughout the 19th century, England’s towns and cities had exploded in size and the living conditions of city dwellers of the time were quite poor. People were crammed into small rooms and the city air was polluted by the fumes of coal used for heating. Howard wanted to combine the quality of country life with the amenities of urban life, and so the garden city model was born. A garden city is a low-density settlement with large gardens and lush greenery, connected by fast public transport to the city centre and other garden cities. (You can read more about the history of garden cities here.)

Ebenezer Howard’s garden city model

Garden cities in Estonia

Howard’s ideas reached Tsarist Russia, to which Estonia belonged at the time, at the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century. Applying these principles, the establishment of the garden cities of Nõmme and Pääsküla started during the tsarist era, and they have become some of the most exclusive residential areas in Tallinn today. The first half of the twentieth century also saw the rapid development of many small Estonian towns – Türi, Elva, Kilingi-Nõmme, etc. They were also built as garden cities.

During the Soviet period, garden cooperatives came to be called garden cities, and the meaning of the concept decreased in value. In the gardening cooperatives, people were allotted tiny plots of land of a few hundred square metres to cultivate. They were also allowed to have small garden huts, the size of which was strictly regulated. Owning your own farm often meant you were obliged to go to the markets to sell the vegetables you grew there. The best known of them are, for example, Mähe and Muuga, but also the garden city of Sausti in Kiili Municipality.

Kiili Garden City

The village of Kiili is still quite young as a settlement and it was called Veneküla until 1977. During the Soviet era, the centre of the Rahva Võit collective farm was located here. Several new residential buildings have been built in Kiili over the last twenty years and a large upper secondary school was also established. However, the village has not seen a boom like the ones in Peetri, Laagri or Viimsi. Therefore, Kiili has a unique opportunity to become a settlement with a really good garden city environment, with lots of greenery and space, as well as good connections to Tallinn. At the same time, the mistakes made elsewhere in recent decades, notably the over-concentration on cars and the lack of focus on quality urban space, can be avoided.

As we’re carrying out the Rabarebase project, we’ve set ourselves the ambitious goal of leading the way in building a quality living environment. Perhaps the separated cycle lanes of Rabarebase and the one-way, slow-moving Vanatoa street seem a little eccentric in their location today. But in the future, they will be part of a bigger whole, and building a better future must start today.

Martin Varvas, Pinered Partner and Architectural Artist