Garden square

Last updated
Bloomsbury Square, a garden square in central London, England Bloomsbury Square1.jpg
Bloomsbury Square, a garden square in central London, England

A garden square is a type of communal garden in an urban area wholly or substantially surrounded by buildings; commonly, it continues to be applied to public and private parks formed after such a garden becomes accessible to the public at large. The archetypal garden square is surrounded by tall terraced houses and other types of townhouse. Because it is designed for the amenity of surrounding residents, it is subtly distinguished from a town square designed to be a public gathering place: due to its inherent private history, it may have a pattern of dedicated footpaths and tends to have considerably more plants than hard surfaces or large monuments.



At their conception in the early 17th century each such garden was a private communal amenity for the residents of the overlooking houses akin to a garden courtyard within a palace or community. Such community courtyards date back to at least Ur in 2000 BC where two-storey houses were built of fired brick around an open square. Kitchen, working, and public spaces were located on the ground floor, with private rooms located upstairs. [1]

In the 20th century, many garden squares that were previously accessible only to defined residents became accessible to the public. Those in central urban locations, such as Leicester Square in London's West End, have become indistinguishable from town squares. Others, while publicly accessible, are largely used by local residents and retain the character of garden squares or small communal parks. Many private squares, even in busy locations, remain private, such as Portman Square in Marylebone in London, despite its proximity to London's busiest shopping districts.



United Kingdom

Golden Square, London Golden square 1.jpg
Golden Square, London

London is famous for them; they are described as one of the glories of the capital. [2] Many were built or rebuilt during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, at the height of Georgian architecture, and are surrounded by townhouses. Large projects, such as the Bedford Estate, included garden squares in their development. The Notting Hill and Bloomsbury neighbourhoods both have many garden squares, with the former mostly still restricted to residents, and the latter open to all. Other UK cities prominent in the Georgian era such as Edinburgh, Bath, Bristol and Leeds have several garden squares.

Householders with access to a private garden square are commonly required to pay a maintenance levy. [3] Normally the charge is set annually by a garden committee.

Sometimes private garden squares are opened to the public, such as during Open Garden Squares Weekend. [4]


In Paris
Square des Epinettes, Paris Square des Epinettes @ Epinettes @ Paris 17 (32938303806).jpg
Square des Epinettes, Paris

Privately owned squares which survived the decades after the French Revolution and 19th century Haussmann's renovation of Paris include the Place des Vosges and Square des Épinettes in Paris. The Place des Vosges was a fashionable and expensive square to live in during the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of the central reasons that Le Marais district became so fashionable for French nobility. It was inaugurated in 1612 with a grand carrousel to celebrate the engagement of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria and is a prototype of the residential squares of European cities that were to come. What was new about the Place Royale as it was known in 1612 was that the house fronts were all built to the same design, probably by Baptiste du Cerceau.

In town squares, similarly green but publicly accessible from the outset, is the Square René Viviani. Gardens substantially cover a few of the famous Places in the capital; instead the majority are paved and replete with profoundly hard materials such as Place de la Concorde. Inspired by ecological interests and a 21st-century focus on pollution mitigation, an increasing number of the Places in Paris today many have a focal tree, or surrounding raised flower beds/and or rows of trees such as the Place de la République.

The enclosed garden terraces (French: jardins terrasses) and courtyards (French: cours) of some French former palaces have resulted in redevelopments into spaces equivalent to garden squares. The same former single-owner scenario applies to at least one garden square in London (Coleridge Square).

Outside of Paris

Grandiose instances of garden-use town squares are a part of many French cities, others opt for solid material town squares.


The Square de Meeûs and Square Orban are notable examples in Brussels.


Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin FitzWilliamsQ.jpg
Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin

Dublin has several Georgian examples, including Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Mountjoy Square, St Stephens Green and Parnell Square.

The Americas

United States

Perhaps the most famous garden square in the United States is Gramercy Park in southern Midtown Manhattan. Famously, it has remained private and gated throughout its existence; possession of a key to the park is a jealously guarded privilege.

The tradition of fee simple land ownership in American cities has made collective amenities such as garden squares comparatively rare. Very few subdividers and developers included them in plats during the 19th century, with notable exceptions below.

Gramercy Park, Manhattan Gramercy-park-2007.jpg
Gramercy Park, Manhattan

Rittenhouse Square in the Center City, Philadelphia encases a public garden, one of the five original open-space parks planned by William Penn and his surveyor Thomas Holme during the late 17th century. It was first named Southwest Square.

Nearby Fitler Square is a similar garden square named for late 19th century Philadelphia mayor Edwin Henry Fitler shortly after his death in 1896. The Square, cared for through a public private partnership between the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Fitler Square Improvement Association.

In Boston tens of squares exist, some having a mainly residential use.

The Kingstowne development in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Washington, DC, contains several townhouse complexes built around garden squares.



Australia and New Zealand

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Courtyard</span> Enclosed area, often by a building, that is open to the sky

A courtyard or court is a circumscribed area, often surrounded by a building or complex, that is open to the sky.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apartment</span> Self-contained housing unit occupying part of a building

An apartment, or flat, is a self-contained housing unit that occupies part of a building, generally on a single story. There are many names for these overall buildings, see below. The housing tenure of apartments also varies considerably, from large-scale public housing, to owner occupancy within what is legally a condominium, to tenants renting from a private landlord.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Town square</span> Open public spaces in cities or towns, usually rectilinear, surrounded by buildings

A town square is an open public space, commonly found in the heart of a traditional town but not necessarily a true geometric square, used for community gatherings. Related concepts are the civic center, the market square and the village green.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Townhouse</span> Individual urban house in a terrace or row

A townhouse, townhome, town house, or town home, is a type of terraced housing. A modern townhouse is often one with a small footprint on multiple floors. In a different British usage, the term originally referred to any type of city residence of someone whose main or largest residence was a country house.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berkeley Square</span> Town square in the West End of London, England

Berkeley Square is a garden square in the West End of London. It is one of the best known of the many squares in London, located in Mayfair in the City of Westminster. It was laid out in the mid 18th century by the architect William Kent, and originally extended further south. The gardens' very large London Plane trees are among the oldest in central London, planted in 1789.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Terraced house</span> Form of medium-density housing

In architecture and city planning, a terrace or terraced house (UK) or townhouse (US) is a form of medium-density housing that originated in Europe in the 16th century, whereby a row of attached dwellings share side walls. In the United States and Canada they are also known as row houses or row homes, found in older cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Toronto.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rittenhouse Square</span> Public park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Rittenhouse Square is a neighborhood, including one of America's most prominent public parks, in Center City, Pennsylvania. The park is one of the five original open-space parks planned by William Penn and his surveyor Thomas Holme during the late 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fitler Square, Philadelphia</span> Neighborhood of Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States

Fitler Square is a 0.5 acre public park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a surrounding neighborhood of the same name. The square is bounded on the east by 23rd Street, on the west by 24th Street, on the north by Panama Street, and on the south by Pine Street. The neighborhood encompasses much of southwest Center City to the west of Rittenhouse Square and east of the Schuylkill River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sahn</span> Islamic architectural feature

A sahn, is a courtyard in Islamic architecture, especially the formal courtyard of a mosque. Most traditional mosques have a large central sahn, which is surrounded by a riwaq or arcade on all sides. In traditional Islamic design, residences and neighborhoods can have private sahn courtyards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunnyside Gardens, Queens</span> United States historic place

Sunnyside Gardens is a community within Sunnyside, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. The area was the first development in the United States patterned after the ideas of the garden city movement initiated in England in the first decades of the twentieth century by Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin, specifically Hampstead Garden Suburb and Letchworth Garden City.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Squares in London</span> Wikimedia list article

Squares have long been a feature of London and come in numerous identifiable forms. The landscaping spectrum of squares stretches from those with more hardscape, constituting town squares —to those with communal gardens, for which London is a major international exponent, known as garden squares.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Front yard</span> Portion of land between a street and house

On a residential area, a front yard or front garden is the portion of land between the street and the front of the house. If it is covered in grass, it may be referred to as a front lawn. The area behind the house, usually more private, is the back yard or back garden. Yard and garden share an etymology and have overlapping meanings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Park Crescent, London</span> Protected architecture in south of Regents Park.

Park Crescent is at the north end of Portland Place and south of Marylebone Road in London. The crescent consists of elegant stuccoed terraced houses by the architect John Nash, which form a semicircle. The crescent is part of Nash's and wider town-planning visions of Roman-inspired imperial West End approaches to Regent's Park. It was originally conceived as a circus (circle) to be named Regent's Circus but instead Park Square was built to the north. The only buildings on the Regent's Park side of the square are small garden buildings, enabling higher floors of the Park Crescent buildings to have a longer, green northern view.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Park Square, London</span>

Park Square is a large garden square or private appendix to Regent's Park in London and is split from a further green, the long northern side of Park Crescent, by Marylebone Road and (single-entrance) Regent's Park tube station. It consists of two facing rows of large, very classically formed, stuccoed, terraced houses with decorative lower floor balconies and a colonnade of consecutive porticos by architect John Nash, and was built in 1823–24. Alike, shorter-length terraces flank its corners at right angles, equally Grade I listed buildings: Ulster Terrace, Ulster Place, St Andrew's Place and Albany Terrace.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Italian garden</span> Style of garden based on symmetry and ample water features

The Italian garden (or giardino all'italiana is best known for a number of large Italian Renaissance gardens which have survived in something like their original form. In the history of gardening, during the Renaissance, Italy had the most advanced and admired gardens in Europe, which greatly influenced other countries, especially the French formal garden and Dutch gardens and, mostly through these, gardens in Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Townhouse (Great Britain)</span>

In British usage, the term townhouse originally referred to the town or city residence, in practice normally in London, of a member of the nobility or gentry, as opposed to their country seat, generally known as a country house or, colloquially, for the larger ones, stately home. The grandest of the London townhouses were stand-alone buildings, but many were terraced buildings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palazzo Nasciaro</span> Residential Townhouse in Naxxar, Malta

Palazzo Nasciaro is an 18th-century townhouse in Naxxar, Malta, built during the Order of St. John. The townhouse was originally built as a family home, but has undergone adaptive reuse several times to fit the changing needs of the local population.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kasbah of Marrakesh</span> District in Marrakesh

The Kasbah of Marrakesh is a large walled district in the southern part of the medina of Marrakesh, Morocco, which historically served as the citadel (kasbah) and royal palace complex of the city. A large part of the district is still occupied by the official royal palace, the Dar al-Makhzen, which serves as the residence of the King of Morocco when he visits the city. The rest of the district consists of various neighbourhoods and monuments. It was founded by the Almohads in the late 12th century, with most of the construction carried out by Caliph Ya'qub al-Mansur. Two of its most important surviving structures today, the Kasbah Mosque and the main gate of Bab Agnaou, date from al-Mansur's reign.

The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association is a charity in London for the purposes of the preservation of public parks and gardens, established in 1882. It facilitated the creation of new public open spaces, including from philanthropic landowners within its membership. The MPGA was involved in the formation and development of other amenity organisations. The charity still exists; in recent decades its emphasis has changed to smaller parcels of land and smaller projects within larger spaces, as well as to themed projects. The MPGA was the starting point for the careers of the ground-breaking female landscape gardeners Fanny Wilkinson and Madeline Agar.


  1. Tim McNeese (1999), History of Civilization - The Ancient World, Lorenz Educational Press, p. 10 ISBN   9780787703875
  2. "Court denies couple use of garden square", Martin Evans, The Daily Telegraph , 10 July 2010.
  3. Council tax and garden square levies, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, UK.
  4. Open Garden Squares Weekend, London, UK.