Trafalgar Square as a garden


Charles Barry’s design for Trafalgar Square was inspired by the gardens he had seen in Italy and designed in England (including Shrubland Park and Trentham Gardens). In essence, Barry followed Repton’s theory that an important building, like the National Gallery, should be fronted by a terrace. The original idea for a Square in this position had come from from Humphry Repton’s partner (John Nash). A traffic island for 150 years, the Square was rescued by Normal Foster’s part-pedistrianization scheme of 2003. The point Fostor neglected is that garden squares should have flowers.

My suggestion is to grow the flowers in pots and arrange them on the great sandstone slabs in front of the National Gallery. When the space is required for another purpose, the pots can be moved.

If the authorities won’t permit  a radical transformation, perhaps they would allow a Classical Vase to stand in front of the National Gallery.

7 thoughts on “Trafalgar Square as a garden

  1. Henry

    Personally, I think they make great use of Trafalgar Square. Even if the contemporary art they scatter or raising awareness concerts are not to my taste, I always stop on my bike to see whats happening.

  2. Christine

    I really LOVE both your suggestions! In fact, the idea that it could be either/or and both delights me…(very postmodern?) Making the square a place for subtle but not too subtle (slightly oversized) reminders of classical gardens is fantastic!!

  3. Christine

    Artists continue to make interventions in the urban environment that give us new perspectives on the relationship between humans and cultivated gardens and landscapes. [I have adapted this from another quote…but do not have the full reference!] I love your visual essays here on perception, space, memory, colour, form, texture and human scale!

  4. Marian

    Evergreen hedges in moveable, discreet planters might be more Italianate. They could be moved and configured to make different spaces outside the Nat Gallery and in the square below, alternately recreating the vistas and allees of Trentham or encircling a new art exhibit as a focus.

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    Yes to the evergreens! I wonder if the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery has an area of flat roof with a service lift which could be used to store and grow plants for changeable garden displays in Trafalgar Square. It looks, from the aerial photograph, as though there is such a space: . On occasion, the north side of Trafalgar Square could also function as an outdoor art gallery. The satellite photograph must have been taken during a demo. It is interesting to see the textural effect of crowd use in the square: one could mistake it for planting!

  6. Christine

    It is more usual at present to contemplate art in the context of a garden []

    Or to find art that functions as comment on garden/s….[]….…however loosely….[]

    The garden is yet to be fully appreciated as art. More installations please!


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