Woolwich Squares

Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s proposal for Woolwich Squares, encompassing Beresford Square, Greens End and General Gordon Square (approx 1ha), signifies the consolidation of a fragmented Woolwich Town Centre, rejuvenating its public spaces, and bringing people back into the heart of Woolwich, both socially and commercially. The design is based on the concept that each square embodies an essential quality of Woolwich, whether historic or natural, to create unique spaces particular to Woolwich that can be enjoyed through the day and into the evening. The design used pedestrian movement studies to identify key routes through the town centre, and developed these to create distinctive quality public spaces that both enhance the experience of the pedestrian and respond to their needs.

The soft landscaping of General Gordon Square addresses the shortage of green open space in the centre of Woolwich generating a sense of calm and relaxation while providing a functional space that can be transformed and layered with other uses. The rationalizing/functionalism of Beresford Square respond to the daily market, and recognizes the original historic layout. The unity of the pedestrian space is reinforced through the palette of materials and street furniture, with special features such as the water scrim, planting and feature lighting developing the character of each square.

Terracing is utilised to improve the usability of the steeply sloping squares, with level routes provided throughout to ensure accessibility for all users. A language of materials and details was developed that incorporated the best practice for seating, ramps, lighting and planting. Natural stone materials were specified for their robustness and appearance, and the choice of colours tied into the wider town centre palette. The robust detailing of the design has allowed the spaces to be well maintained by the council.

While the language of the project is modern, the design is sensitive to the historic fabric of Woolwich, especially its Grade II listed buildings which overlook each square. Both buildings are re-established as key architectural features in the public realm. The soft landscaping addresses the shortage of green space, creating a ‘Garden’ that generates a sense of calm and relaxation while providing a functional space that can be transformed and layered with other uses. Natural stone materials were specified for their robustness and appearance, and the choice of colours tied into previously completed TfL street works, grounding the design into the broader context of Woolwich, strengthening the natural link from Woolwich Common to the River Thames.

Envisaged as part of the wider Woolwich masterplan, Royal Borough of Greenwich set out key objectives to create a fully accessible public space for all, with feature lighting, soft landscaping and a water feature that could drain to accommodate events. The response to the completed scheme has been extremely positive with numerous events being hosted since it was opened.

Landscape Architecture: Gustafson Porter + Bowman
Client: Royal Borough of Greenwich
Location: London, United Kingdom
Size: 1.1 ha
Status: Completed 2011
Text: Gustafson Porter + Bowman

Engineer: ARUP
Main Contractor: Volker Highways
Fountain Specialist: Fountain Workshop
Lighting Designer: LAPD
Pedestrian Study: Space Syntax
Consultants: (Public consultation) Soundings
Consultants: (Access consultancy) David Burdus
Consultants: (Soil scientist) Tim O’Hare
Consultants: (Art consultancy) Modus Operandi


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