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St John's Square set for Gross Max treatment

Gross Max Landscape Architects has won an invited competition for the redesign of St John's Square, Clerkenwell, organised by the London Borough of Islington. The Edinburgh-based practice beat FAT , Muf, East and Urban Initiatives for the £500,000 project which is partly funded by a Single Regeneration Budget grant.

St John's Square was once part of the inner precinct of the Priory of St John of Jersualem, founded in the twelfth century; its fifteenth-century gateway, St John's Gate, still survives and marks the southern entrance to the site. But its present character is largely determined by the busy main road which bisects it (Clerkenwell Road) and by excessive car parking.

The Gross Max scheme aims 'to reveal the hidden beauty of the square'. With an expectation that car parking will be gradually reduced, it introduces a continuous natural stone floor 'to bring the dimensions and proportions of the square back into the limelight'. In an effort to connect the currently separate halves, a 145m long metal strip runs from St John's Gate to Jerusalem Passage at the north.

As in the practice's earlier square at Whiteinch Cross, Glasgow (AJ 17.2.00), a new vertical feature acts as a landmark. This towerlike structure, at the edge of Clerkenwell Road on the south-west side of the square, 'will generate images of transparency, light and time' .The overall emphasis on hard landscape will be countered by localised planting of trees and by the creation of a 'vertical garden' to mask an existing petrol station.

Angela Diamandidou, a senior planner in Islington's Department of Environment and Conservation, said: 'We were impressed by the simplicity and imagination of Gross Max's proposal.' The practice has already designed a new square beside the town hall in the neighbouring borough of Hackney, which should soon be on site.

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