Garden squares are one of London’s architectural blessings and their enduring charm continues to strike a chord with homebuyers. The capital has about 600 squares, many of them in the poshest parts of town — Belgravia, Chelsea and Kensington — where only key-holding private residents have access.
Canny landed estates, such as Grosvenor, realised centuries ago that elegant, formally laid out squares provide a sense of neighbourhood and exclusivity that underpins property values. Inspired by their example, today’s developers and architects are embracing squares, knowing they will add value to new homes and boost their scheme’s green credentials.
One fledgling developer has even named itself London Square and is using traditional garden square architecture as a building template. “Classic London residential squares have a timeless quality. It’s to do with scale, style, sense of place and community — people love them,” says Adam Lawrence, the firm’s chief executive.
The company’s first project has been unveiled in Fulham, at a two-acre site in Farm Lane once used as stables for horses and hackney cabs.
“Our inspiration came from Wellington Square, off King’s Road in Chelsea, and the design reflects that square’s elegant proportions and symmetry. At its heart are communal gardens while four-storey terrace townhouses are a contemporary interpretation of Georgian architecture, with large front doors and railings to give a sense of grandeur.”
It is a traffic-free retreat (cars are parked in underground garages with direct access to the houses) with 40 homes. Pedestrians arrive via a listed Edwardian double-arched entrance, flanked either side by smaller two-storey new houses and apartments. Prices from £2.5 million. Call 01895 627 300.
The company has acquired seven London sites that will bring 600 homes. Coming next is a scheme of 10 houses priced from £2.5 million to £4.4 million at Ridgway, Wimbledon Village. Visit londonsquare.co.uk
Similar design principles have been adopted by developer St James at Queen Mary’s Place in Roehampton where three- and four-storey townhouses are arranged around squares and courtyards within a 14-acre walled estate. Prices from £785,000. Florence Square, the last phase of eight modern-style semi-detached houses on the estate, will be released in autumn, while work has started at Emerald Square, a new development close by. Call 020 3004 4112.
New public squares are key in housing-led urban regeneration schemes.
“Towns used to be built around squares where folk would meet for proclamations and civic events —squares were the town’s beating heart,” says architect Rod Sheard, designer of the main stadium at the Olympic Park in Stratford, where extensive public space around East Village, the residential element, was one of the planning priorities.
Sheard’s radical idea is that the stadium itself — as a public arena — should become a civic square, or “everyday hub”, with restaurants and bars that service events. “You make the playing area the town square and have seats that can roll away after an event.”
At Dalston Square, a residential complex above the new East London line station in Hackney, the square is more of a wide piazza, conceived as a new town centre, with apartment blocks, a library and shops grouped around the open space. Two-bedroom apartments are priced from £369,000. Call Barratt on 020 7241 1833.
Central Square, Clerkenwell, is a new scheme of 170 apartments priced from £350,000. Call 0845 1771711 or visit centralsquarelondon.com. The 2,500-home masterplan for Elephant and Castle includes a new market square and the biggest new park in London for 70 years.
Dickens Yard, Ealing, has 698 new flats set around two new public squares and pedestrianised lanes being brought to life with shops, restaurants, markets and street theatre. Prices start at £439,950 and come with a package of extras — 24-hour concierge, underground parking and residents-only gym. A swish hotel-like entrance foyer provides a sense of arrival, and the scheme links with three heritage buildings, including Ealing’s gothic-style town hall, a Victorian church and a fine Thirties fire station. Call developer St George on 020 8568 1100.
Harper Square, in the sought-after SE1 postcode, offers shared-ownership apartments set around courtyard gardens. Prices from £95,375 for a 35 per cent share (full price £272,500). Call Family Mosaic housing association on 020 7089 1315.
The Square is the name of an affordable homes scheme set amid Kennington’s period architecture. Apartment blocks enclose a landscaped inner square. Prices from £265,000 (£66,250 for a 25 per cent share). Call Affinity Sutton on 0300 100 0303.
Saffron Square, a landmark 42-storey tower with 719 apartments, rises above a new public square flanked by cafés, bars and shops in Croydon town centre. Prices from £182,500. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 8774 9888.
New homes are even being created at some of London’s historic garden squares. A scheme of 36 prestige apartments are nearing completion at 2 Hyde Park Square, around the corner from the Blairs’ home at Connaught Square. Prices from £775,000. Call Savills on 020 7409 8756.