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The London Square: Its Uniqueness & Potential

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Daniel Cutter
Cardiff University | UK
A typology born from the social structure of Georgian society, the first London squares established a unique architectural form that would later come to define the urban fabric of London. Notably distinct from their European counter¬parts, the London squares saw the genesis of a completely new way of living. Creating nuclei or “little towns” within the city, they connected with the urban surroundings while also introducing rural values and sustaining pockets of “civil¬ity”; elements that were fashionable among the upper classes of the time who traditionally resided in great rural estates. The successes of the square- socially, architecturally and economically through the appearance of the speculative builder- are arguably unrivalled in the context of London’s urban development. Even today, they are some of the most sought after spaces in London and they have had a huge influence on urban design, especially through the introduction of green space. Yet, modern-day interpretations of the square have not been particularly well-received. Marketed as a “uniquely English device”, developers have recognised the idiosyncratic desirability of the traditional square without addressing the wider context, so the tendency to create pastiche copies domi¬nates. Given these distortions, it seems appropriate to discuss the defining features of the square and the factors that have contributed to its continued appeal. Comparing present day examples with a number of traditional London squares it becomes clear that, rather than the physical architecture being the defining feature, concepts such as enclosure, homogeneity and stewardship are the key elements that mould these urban success stories. What is the future of the London square? Is it possible to argue that a typology conceived over 300 years ago is still relevant to the London of today?

This dissertation is composed of four connected key aims; firstly to describe the historical and social context that created the square, secondly to understand its importance as a typology within London. The third aim is to define the key features of a ‘successful’ London square and the fourth and final aim is to discuss the future of The Square as a residential typology.

Daniel Cutter

Stephen Kite
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