Victor Bourgeois and the Garden Cities
Made in Belgium : Proud of our artists
Devised in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard, a British urbanist with social beliefs, the principle of the garden city was designed to control urban growth and mitigate the disintegration of social bonds. The primary goal of creating these green cities was to decongest large cities.
Howard was the precursor of these ensembles. He believed that they must adapt to the natural topography of the area, and embrace the idea of community and sharing. There was a strong impetus to build beautiful and harmonious environments.
By 1908, the concept of the garden city had reached Belgium, where garden cities had a social purpose. Indeed, they emerged as the best way to overcome the problem of housing workers with a goal of fostering the values of mutual aid and mutual education.
A large number of architects, including Victor Bourgeois, were quick to subscribe to the new trend. In 1922, with the help of his brother and some friends, he formed the Cooperative Tenants Society and designed "La Cité Moderne" in Berchem Ste-Agathe in Brussels. Mutual aid and solidarity lay at the heart of this town which was organised around a central square: the Place des Cooperators. The city was composed of 275 social housing units.
This city formed part of the cubic architecture movement and was, in fact, the first large-scale realisation of the movement. Bourgeois was largely inspired by cubism, which abhors all decorative ornaments and advocates clean lines and flat roofs.
In 1925, the Grand Prize at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs was awarded to the Cité Moderne, which is still an important architectural reference.