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The Green Chronicles: Lusaka in focus

Updated: May 28

Lusaka has been on a well-heeled historical adventure with ample evidence of green literature, maps, provided by contributors such as the planners, architects, Lusaka City Council Library and National Archives, and historians as its drivers of change. Our journey to study it has begun.

From its heyday as a remote outpost to constructing our first school, mill and our first store, John. A. Hoogterp, L. Kollenberg, B. Glasser, and many other developers saw us through our first major buildings, like [first-class] hotels, shopping centers, company headquarters, social and sports clubs in Lusaka.

The real star of the show was when the Flamboyant Lily Trees were planted on Cairo Road in 1921 and remarkably, when Barclays Bank opened in 1925, further tree planting was encouraged. This was followed by our first Agricultural and Commercial Show which was held at the new Showgrounds.

A Flamboyant Tree on the Roadside.
A Flamboyant Tree on the Roadside. Photo Credit David Brown

Similar to other African cities under colonial rule, Lusaka was designed as a "garden city," emphasizing open space, roomy dwellings, and a decrease in overpopulation. To make room for the incoming wave of white settlers, houses with lawns were built and trees were planted along the streets. Lusaka then gained the moniker "Garden City" thanks to its iconic leafy landscape.

What is a Garden City?

A garden city is a town with lots of greenery and open space throughout its design. The idea of a garden city was first proposed in the late 19th century due to the quick urbanization and social and environmental issues that occurred throughout the Industrial Revolution.

Ebenezer Howard, a British social reformer, first put out the concept in his 1898 book Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform.

The garden city concept called for the development of planned communities that would integrate the advantages of rural and urban living, resulting in self-contained neighborhoods with a healthy mix of open green spaces, industry, and agriculture. These communities would be planned to offer a high standard of living with a focus on social peace, access to nature, and healthy living.

A Lusaka road lined with purple flowered Jacaranda trees.
A Lusaka road lined with Jacaranda trees. Photo Credit David Brown

Green belts that encircle the city center are common characteristics of garden cities. These belts prevent urban sprawl and protect the environment by acting as buffers between rural and urban regions and serving as spaces for open-space agriculture and natural landscapes.

Howard's campaign gained traction in the United Kingdom, and its enthusiasm spread to the British colonies in Africa. Since every city is different, different planning theories and approaches will work in various places. Garden city applications to cities in Africa took on a totally different character, particularly the enforcement of segregation between indigenous and settlers, despite its initial proposal to serve humanitarian purposes. Although not all of the concept's cities closely reflect Howard's initial vision, the core ideas of developing livable, sustainable communities that prioritize community and nature continue to be important to the Green Space Zambia concept.

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