Our design submission for RIBA’s international ideas competition Re-Imagining the Garden City. We were one of four practices selected to develop our ideas for the urban expansion of Letchworth Garden City.

The inspiration behind Gardenia is a connection with nature and Letchworth’s founding vision of a city of gardens.

Letchworth is growing and this new place is imagined as a branch, reaching into the countryside.

Like sap is the lifeblood of a branch, flowing back and forth, Gardenia’s branch is filled with people moving along it – going to work, going home, going to school or to the shops but ultimately engaging as a community; a living, vibrant, green movement spine.

And sprouting off this stem are the ‘leaves’ – quieter clusters of homes around garden spaces. Clusters are what Gardenia is all about; small communities of homes arranged around green spaces, not roads.

Gardenia’s focal point is the community hub that sits on Letchworth’s primary axis, marked by the vertical garden – a landmark visible from the city.

Wrapping around this are activities that bring the community together – a school, community and business hub, city farm, retirement village, energy centre, transport interchange and garden centre. People of all ages live and learn alongside each other.

Gardenia aims to serve both body and mind, right from its heart all the way to the front door of every home. The linear garden is what connects each cluster of homes with the heart and the wider community, but it’s also a productive landscape that provides food, water attenuation, habitats and activity.

Keeping up with the Gardenians

Three generations of one family tell us about life in Gardenia.

Community news

Nature Inspired

Gardenia’s Linear Garden Concept

Gardenia looks to create a rich environment for people and nature to thrive in and enjoy

Organic Cell Structure of Gardenia

Gardenia creates lots of neighbourly clusters focussed on people and community spirit which forms the basis of a flexible phasing strategy

Places with Distinctive Character

Gardenia is divided into areas of different characteristics that reinforce its identity

View the full submission boards.

The team

The core team brings together expertise in Architecture, Landscape Design and Urban Design. They’re also part of our Place studio – a home for initiatives aimed at influencing how we go about Shaping Future Places.

The introduction of our future residents – Ray, Anna and Howard – has helped us visualise more holistically the possible impact of our proposals on the communities who could be expected to live in and around our model settlement.

A key design idea is to substitute streets for clusters. Placing small green spaces at the heart of each cluster encourages community and implies a sense of ownership. It’s what garden cities are all about.

At the heart of the masterplan is a garden. Not large in footprint but stretching skywards, the vertical botanic garden will re-establish the city’s original strong axial geometry set out by Parker and Unwin. This striking planted structure will become the emblem for the development.

Shaping Future Places

We believe that together, things can be done better; we should create places which will thrive long into the future.


A collection of interviews with the people that use our projects every day. These are the true judges of the spaces and places we create.