The London Square


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Gardens in the Midst of Town

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

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Modern-day London abounds with a multitude of gardens, enclosed by railings and surrounded by houses, which attest to the English love of nature. These green enclaves, known as squares, are among the most distinctive and admired features of the metropolis and are England's greatest contribution to the development of European town planning and urban form. Traditionally, inhabitants who overlooked these gated communal gardens paid for their maintenance and had special access to them. As such, they have long been synonymous with privilege, elegance, and prosperous metropolitan living. They epitomize the classical notion of rus in urbe, the integration of nature within the urban plan—a concept that continues to shape cities to this day.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan delves into the history, evolution, and social implications of squares, which have been an important element in the planning and expansion of London since the early 17th century. As an amenity that fosters health and well-being and a connection to the natural world, the square has played a crucial role in the development of the English capital.

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a landscape architect with an international practice based in London. He is gardens adviser to Hampton Court Palace and is currently redesigning the gardens of Kensington Palace in London.

“…[An] enormous and beautifully produced book.”—Gillian Tindall, Literary Review

“Longstaffe-Gowan’s beautifully illustrated and lovingly researched history is an appropriately impressive celebration of ‘England’s most innovative and most universally admired urban landscape conceit.”—PD Smith, The Guardian

“Now, the subject has the book length, sumptuously illustrated treatment it deserves…this magnificently illustrated chronological history gives us a warts-and-all exploration of a typology that began in the mid 17th century as a straight copy of the Italian piazza model before mutating by the 18th-century into a peculiarly British phenomenon.”—Tim Richardson, Country Life

"[Todd Longstaffe-Gowan] delves deeply into the history of the evolution of the London square… Serious students of the development of London's squares will be well rewarded."—London Square News 

"[A] magisterial account of the ups and downs of the London square… Where Longstaffe-Gowan scores is in his superabundant knowledge of the subsequent history of squares…"—Charles Saumarez Smith, Spectator

"[An] engrossing, well-illustrated work…"—Philippa Stockley, New Statesman

"The author has done a really wonderful job of tracing the story of London's squares from the beginnings to the present day."—Hazel Conway, House and Garden

"…this classy tome is a lively read. The illustrations alone - plans, cartoons, photos, engravings and watercolours - are worth the price of the book."—Elizabeth Grice, The Oldie

"Longstaffe-Gowan's engrossing oblong book should certainly interest any architect, politician or planner charged with creating new city streets."—Jonathan Glancey, Building Design

"Longstaffe-Gowan's lively history is the first to be published on the subject in over a century, and his perceptive narrative charts the evolution of these elegant and often unseen public spaces, which mostly remain under lock and key."—Apollo Magazine

"Longstaffe-Gowan offers some highly pertinent twentieth- and even early twenty-first century observations about public open space… His lively and comprehensive study offers a microcosm of city life, as well as a far wider picture of urban society. Enhanced by a generous and imaginative choice of illustrations, the book is a classic account of a key aspect in the development and still changing shape of the capital."—Gillian Darley, Burlington Magazine

"This is a glorious book, and its celebratory tone is more than justified when one thinks of the human richness, architectural ingenuity and horticultural beauty of the London square since the time of Charles I. Having watched so much townscape insensitively spoilt in the past fifty years, we have now come to cherish our heritage all the more. This lavish, even extravagant, production - a lovely piece of bookmanship - is a symptom of a corner turned, a dawn brightening." A.N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement

"Yale’s variety of illustrations and standard of design and production match the quality of the text and it is a real treat to be presented with a book brimming with all-round stature and elegance."—George Plumptre, Historic House

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s lavish evocation of The London Square brilliantly fuses the speculative, nostalgic and visionary aspects of urban quadrangular living."—Jonathan Keates, Times Literary Supplement

"Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is a marvel of erudition and urbanity in The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town. With beautiful, lavish illustrations, he traces the history and celebrates the diversity of the squares that have made London so distinctly spacious a capital. This is a witty, passionate book in praise of aristocratic patronage, middle-class initiative and city living. It is a joy for those who love flowers, fountains and arbours, but is gloriously rude about gated communities."—Richard Davenport-Hines, The Daily Telegraph

"Whilst deeply researched the book is immensely readable, with lavish illustrations and photographs adding significantly to the reader’s enjoyment."—Corinne Julius, The Garden Design Journal

"[Longstaffe-Gowan’s] comprehensive study is a delight both to behold and to read."—Celina Fox, The Art Newspaper

“Very accessible and entertaining. . . . This exploration of the special world of these often private, sheltered spaces within an urban area may make the reader long to have just such a retreat.”—Joan Richards, Current Books on Gardening and Botany (Chicago Botanic Garden) 

 Winner of the 2013 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize, given by the Foundation for Landscape Studies.
Shortlisted for the 2013 William MC Berger Prize for British Art History.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Art Book Prize given by the Authors’ Club and supported by The Art Newspaper. The Art Book Prize is awarded annually to the best book on art or architecture.
ISBN: 9780300152012
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publishing Partner: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
348 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
88 color + 202 b/w illus.
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