Leicester Square and its surrounding streets form one of the most intensely used urban spaces in central London with 250,000 visitors each day, over 50 film premieres each year and 250 servicing deliveries to businesses and eateries every morning. Despite being an entertainment and tourist destination, the area had become disconnected from its surroundings, rundown in appearance and a place where antisocial behaviour had become a major issue.
As a result in 2007, through a design competition, Westminster City Council selected Burns + Nice to re-instate Leicester Square as an international landmark; their aspirations were for it to be a ‘must see' place that inspires, excites and delights. The palette for the lighting and street furniture was to be contemporary, the streetscapes simple in design and clutter free. The protected central gardens, with the listed Shakespeare Fountain, were to be awe-inspiring, relaxing and inviting.
The new urban design principles introduced by Burns + Nice were to re-established the Square within its London context and re-define the wider area as a distinct ‘city quarter' with enhanced connections.
New railings and gates were introduced around the gardens, framed by the innovative informal seating element, a sinuous white ‘Ribbon'. The design takes the fountain as its core reference; the form, colour and shape of the ‘Ribbon' are derived from its sculptural language and it has also influenced the thresholds to the wider city block. The fountain has been enhanced through the addition of an interactive water feature that creates a new experience within the Gardens.
The granite ‘Ribbon' activates the edge of the Gardens within the surrounding pedestrianised terraces and al-fresco dining areas. A contemporary planting scheme behind it, together with the organic shape of the mirrored railings, blurs the experience of being ‘inside' or ‘outside' the Gardens.