The West Terrace at lunchtime. © BURNS + NICE

Leicester Square is an important West End destination and a hub linking Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and Chinatown. The scheme aimed to give definition to the square, its gardens and the surrounding streets as the ‘Leicester Square City Quarter’. Contemporary design captures intrinsic qualities of a historic London square redefining it as a principal meeting place, with opportunities to sit and relax inside and outside the gardens, and creating a safe environment that feels welcoming by day and night.

All nine streets leading to Leicester Square have been re-designed as part of the scheme: continuous treatment of the public realm and the introduction of a paving hierarchy strengthens legibility and provides continuity to the ’City Quarter’.

The new design is inspired by the historic qualities of the late 19th century form of the central Gardens. Constraints of the new scheme include the retention of listed structures, the London Plane trees and the legal requirement for the Gardens to be physically enclosed. These constraints were positively overcome: new railings and gates were introduced, framed by a sinuous white ‘Ribbon’. The Gardens and the wider square take their design reference from the historic fountain at their centre. Everything radiates out from the fountain; the pathways widen towards the gates giving the illusion of greater distance and space; the Gardens and ‘Ribbon’ are framed by a carpet of dark granite, the shape of which creates a legible link to the surrounding square. Sustainability was a key consideration at each aspect of the design, from the specification of low energy LED lighting to robust detailing of all components of the scheme, ensuring a long life span in this heavily used location.

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