Venice Biennale 2014 - A Clockwork Jerusalem

Contrary to popular myth, the UK has a rich and internationally influential history of urban planning, say the curators of this year’s British pavilion exhibition at the Venice Biennale

A Clockwork Splash, image by FAT Architecture
A Clockwork Splash, image by FAT Architecture © FAT Architecture

More than a century after Ebenezer Howard delivered his legendary manifesto introducing the idea of the Garden City, we are facing our own building crisis, and it is prompting many to ask the very same question Howard posed back then: “The People; Where Will They Go?”

If, as some say, we are entering a kind of neo-Victorian age where issues of housing affordability, inequality and opportunity have returned, perhaps it’s no surprise that the idea of the Garden City has re-emerged too. And with it, an acknowledgement of something long forgotten: that contrary to popular myth, Britain has a rich and internationally influential history of urban planning. 

The British invented planning in its modern form, then implemented it with such ambition and skill that – from Howard’s original garden city all the way to the last (and one of the most successful) new towns, Milton Keynes – Britain was the global leader. Planning was not just the preserve of professionals: parliamentary stenographers, religious groups, architectural critics, authors, musicians, photographers, film-makers all contributed to the collective visions of Britain's possible futures.

A Clockwork Jerusalem, the exhibition we have curated for the British pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, tells the story of this century of planning, starting with the maps of poverty in late-Victorian London, produced by Charles Booth, that graphically communicated the crisis of urban inequality.