Developing design ideas

Autumn 2020

We are rethinking the role of Grosvenor Square to transform it into a thriving place for both people and nature. We want to do this with our neighbours of all ages, and with other London communities, bringing together the best knowledge to create a new type of urban square which encourages discovery and fosters well-being for both people and planet. We want this to be the best garden square in the world.

Here you will find the developing design ideas as shared in September and October. These reflect feedback from the summer exhibition of initial design ideas and build on responding to the community priorities that you told us were most important. 

We invited you to participate and feedback through a variety of ways:

Meet the team in the Square

Open air exhibition 

Online design discussion
Watch this back here

Themed walks & talks
Watch this back here

Play workshops

Click the icon in each cluster to listen

Creating a shared vision

Thank you to everyone who participated in our activities; sharing their priorities in our May – June programme of events and giving us feedback on the initial design ideas in our summer exhibition. Between May and September we:

Redesigning Grosvenor Square

We used your feedback on the initial design ideas to shape the information we wanted to test with you in the Autumn exhibition. These are split into different clusters which you can see by clicking on the icons below.

You told us you wanted to know more about how we have been learning about and responding to the heritage of the Square. In this section we are sharing information on the heritage and how that has inspired our ideas.
We heard that you want to make sure we balanced retaining a sense of openness with the other spaces and we have used this feedback to shape our overall vision. We have created a model to show our shared vision and the key things we have changed since your feedback in the summer.
You told us that you liked the idea of the hidden water garden but wanted to understand how the levels would work and what type of space it would create. We have made a model to talk about how this garden is positioned underground and created some drawings to talk to you about how this space could feel.
We received so much excited feedback about planting but people wanted to see and feel more so we have a temporary installation, our planted oval, to help spark this discussion. We want to use this to talk about the magic, delight and joy you told us you wanted the planting to bring to the Square.
People wanted to know how the corner gardens would be welcoming, safe spaces in all seasons or times of day and what types of uses and functions might be best suited to them. We have drawn a day and night view of one of the corners and want to get feedback on how we also might include  structures in these spaces.
You told us that we needed to show you more clearly how play would be included in the Square. We have some examples to share and workshops for families to attend to help us explore play.

Hover over the labels to read more about each cluster.


Grosvenor Square has a fascinating history, it was hugely important for the development of Georgian London and was the first garden square to have an oval shape and soft landscaping. It is where Anglo-American relations used to take centre stage after the Second World War. How to respect both these aspects and make the Square enjoyable for all is an exciting challenge.

We have been working with Cordula Zeidler, our heritage specialist from Donald Insall Architects, and the Museum of London Archaeology to understand the Square across the years and think about how our designs can reflect and respond to these layers of history. 

Overall vision

The developing design proposal focuses on four key gardens that we think create the qualities you have told you want to see. The Square will balance being calm and playful, with a focus on wellbeing, where people feel as though they can step into and be enclosed by nature but also be in a safe and secure environment. This can be achieved using horticultural and ecological excellence, carefully utilising water and improving air quality. 

This visual and descriptions below show these four gardens and the different qualities they have.

The 360° view demonstrates what the square could look like if you were standing along the path leading to the south east corner. Use your mouse to look across to the open garden, up towards the gently rising mound of the hidden water garden or to the edges of the square to find the social ovals within the shaded garden. In the distance you'll be able to make out a rain basket as part of the corner garden in the north east corner of the Square.

Levels & layers

We combined our approach to carefully utilising water with the creation of a hidden water garden beneath the open garden. A collection pool of rain water that can be stored and used to sustain planting within the Square but also experienced as a totally unique type of underground garden space.

Planting and ecology

As part of the exhibition in the Square, we created a temporary oval to spark a conversation about planting within the shaded garden. We wanted to test how this could provide an immersive experience that delights the senses and enhance the feeling of stepping into nature. 

 You can explore the space below.

Seasonal variety

By exploring more natural planting we can capture the drama, beauty and spontaneity of beautiful wild landscapes and bring these qualities into an urban square. This type of planting is highly dynamic, creating a constantly changing visitor experience that consists of a series of choreographed moments throughout the year encouraging people to return time and time again for an uplifting and joyful response.

Before After

Sustaining trees in Grosvenor Square

We want to ensure that trees are a part of the experience of this space for generations to come. We are proposing new trees that will grow and flourish as some of the existing trees reach the end of their life, as well as a wider variety of trees which support a greater diversity of wildlife.

Arriving at the square

In the summer exhibition you told us that you liked the idea of the corner gardens because they would extend the green space but you wanted to make sure that these spaces would be safe and would genuinely improve the experience of arriving on foot.

During the day the floating rain baskets that collect water for reuse also provide a space sheltered from the sun and rain for people to meet before entering the Square. Local traffic continues to move around the Square, but the corners are extended to bring beautiful planting beyond the existing boundary.

At night, the floating rain baskets are illuminated to provide a comfortable and safe environment for the public to enjoy on warm summer evenings. This lighting will be subtle to limit light pollution for surrounding properties. This lighting could extend into the Square allowing its use to be extended into the early evening during the winter months.

Before After

In the summer exhibition we received clear feedback that people wanted to see something more overtly playful in the Square. We also heard that it should use natural materials and be in keeping with the overall design. This made us approach play experts and natural playground designers Davies White Ltd to help us work with children and families and explore different ways that play could be included. All images and projects displayed on these play boards have been provided by Davies White Ltd.

We think playful experiences should feature throughout the shaded garden with the meandering routes and social ovals providing a range of places and types of play but we want to explore this more with you.

What happens next

Thank you to everyone who participated and provided feedback as part of the Autumn programme of events. We received more then 1500 comments and will be reading and analysing these in detail over the coming months. We look forward to continuing the conversation next year but in the meantime, you can read our initial observations from your feedback here.