The gardens at Leicester Square in central London are largely unchanged since they were handed over to public use in the 19th century with the proviso that the trees never be cut down and the gardens always be surrounded by a fence.
Today, the square receives about 250,000 visitors and more than 200 vehicles per day, making it one of the busiest public spaces in London.
A constant series of upgrades has never addressed the issue of traffic management properly, and the current garden and paving arrangement present a poor environment for London's premier garden square.
In 2004, landscape architect Gillespies and lighting designer Pinniger & Partners were appointed to devise a comprehensive overhaul of the landscaping and lighting. The commission required not only a 'declutter' but also the exibility to cater for an increase in public events. The designs had to be sustainable, be fit for the high levels of traffic, and re-establish the square as London's 'home of cinema'.
The lighting brief is extremely testing. Survey and research enabled us to catalogue the usage and we have devised a lighting strategy to cope with this.
A series of 'multi-head' streetlights, mounted at high level on selected buildings and incorporating specially developed optical systems, will provide improved illumination levels through the streets and square as well as dappled illumination to the gardens.
The multi-head units improve light control, with significantly reduced physical size and nighttime glare. There will also be a series of architectural lighting treatments to the facades of selected buildings as well as low-level lighting integrated into walls, benches, seats and steps. Together, these elements will provide varying levels of ambient illumination designed to provide a safe and secure environment while delivering a layered, textured environment.
Lighting will also be integrated into the ground plane. Gillespies intends to use recycled glass extensively, both in the form of individual markers set within the general paving and as a striking 'frame' around the gardens. This subtle variation in material surface will be transformed at night with a series of 'fireies' set under the ground plane in an apparently random fashion, providing a subtle draw through to a dynamic, interactive lighting display under the garden frame and lighting features within the garden.
This should encourage exploration, give information about commercial activities and public-service messages.
Finally, an integrated services infrastructure is proposed, located under the frame and linked to surrounding streets. This will provide the facility for multiservice network functionality, permitting a wide range of special events within the central square and garden - serviced and controlled remotely.