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The London Square

Gardens in the Midst of Town

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan


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Modern-day London abounds with a multitude of gardens, enclosed by railings and surrounded by houses, which attest to the English love of nature. These green enclaves, known as squares, are among the most distinctive and admired features of the metropolis and are England's greatest contribution to the development of European town planning and urban form. Traditionally, inhabitants who overlooked these gated communal gardens paid for their maintenance and had special access to them. As such, they have long been synonymous with privilege, elegance, and prosperous metropolitan living. They epitomize the classical notion of rus in urbe, the integration of nature within the urban plan—a concept that continues to shape cities to this day.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan delves into the history, evolution, and social implications of squares, which have been an important element in the planning and expansion of London since the early 17th century. As an amenity that fosters health and well-being and a connection to the natural world, the square has played a crucial role in the development of the English capital.

Praise For The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town

“Very accessible and entertaining. . . . This exploration of the special world of these often private, sheltered spaces within an urban area may make the reader long to have just such a retreat.”—Joan Richards, Current Books on Gardening and Botany (Chicago Botanic Garden) 

— Joan Richards

 Winner of the 2013 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize, given by the Foundation for Landscape Studies.

— 2013 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize

Shortlisted for the 2013 William MC Berger Prize for British Art History.

— William MB Berger Prize

Shortlisted for the 2014 Art Book Prize given by the Authors’ Club and supported by The Art Newspaper. The Art Book Prize is awarded annually to the best book on art or architecture.

— Art Book Prize

Paul Mellon Centre, 9780300152012, 348pp.

Publication Date: July 10, 2012

About the Author

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a landscape architect with an international practice based in London. He is gardens adviser to Hampton Court Palace and is currently redesigning the gardens of Kensington Palace in London.