At ING we find walking around our local area a great way to reconnect and find a bit calm during the busy day. As more of us return to the city, finding green spaces and ‘hidden gems’ where we can be outside and close to nature is important for our wellbeing. This walk will lead you on a journey of discovery and contemplation; challenging perceptions of what a ‘garden’ is; understanding how greenery is integrated in the public realm; and appreciating how the city can continue to develop with nature in mind.
Weaving together the history and design of several urban ‘gardens’, our route takes you through the back lanes of the city, set back from the hustle and bustle of the main streets. We encourage you, as you walk from site to site, to look up, look around, and pause, taking in the world around you.
At the centre of arguably the world’s oldest council estate, formally opened in 1900, the Boundary Gardens at Arnold Circus was built using surplus material and waste from the surrounding Boundary Estate designed by Owen Flemming. It was the first major initiative undertaken by London County Council as an early instance of ‘slum clearance’. Its original purpose – to unify the new community through access to green space and play – remains unchanged with locals taking full advantage of the garden and bandstand for outdoor activities.
The civic space at the heart of the Broadgate estate was redesigned in 2015 by Arup Architecture, enriching the retail, civic and social amenities while enhancing the original qualities of the space. The dramatic colonnade structure, formed of 54 travertine columns, was maintained, the amphitheater modernised and the area punctuated with ‘green furniture’ to encourage interaction and reflection. Being a privately owned public space, it is used for a range of activities throughout the year.
This Grade II listed garden is the largest open space in the City. It is also what remains of Moor Fields, London’s first public park dating back to 1607. In 1869 the oval shaped garden was tunneled for the Metropolitan Railway, and for the past ten years has been closed to accommodate the Crossrail construction programme at Liverpool Street. The City of London Corporation reopened the park to the public in August 2020, after a call for design proposals to transform the gardens into a sustainable multipurpose space. Five practices have since been shortlisted, but in the meantime, the garden remains a popular lunch spot for local workers and those who need to escape the office to stretch their legs.
Direction tip: head towards Moorgate, take a left on Moor Place, walk across City Point to end up on Silk Street. Climb the blue stairs in front of Wagamama to enter the Barbican Estate and head towards Speed Gardens.
Located at the eastern boundary of the Barbican lake, sat between Speed House (the first Barbican block to be built) and Brandon Mews, Speed Gardens was designed with the community in mind. The garden includes provision for play with swings for children as well as a rich variety of greenery, including eucalyptus and kiki fruit. Although the garden is private, the public can still perch around the edge at podium level, offering an almost aerial view of the garden below. If you look up, you can see how residents have continued to embrace the natural world by adorning balconies with hanging plants and greenery.
This series of pocket gardens is located around Salters’ Hall, designed by Brutalist architect Basil Spence and recently refurbished by dMFK Architects, and includes the ruins of the St Alphege church. The secluded garden is sunk below road level – with the old Roman City Wall as its southern boundary it is a perfectly manicured mosaic of lawn, hedging, pergolas and fountains. It is directly accessible from the Barbican ‘pedway’ system of elevated walkways and has been the connecting tissue for many office developments, including those of architectural luminaries such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Eric Parry and Terry Farrell.
Following significant war damage the square was laid out in 1962 as part of the London Wall Plan of 1955 to pedestrianise parts of the area. Having gone through several reconfigurations since its conception, the most recent scheme designed by Eric Parry Architects was completed in 2006. As part of the Street Scene Challenge initiative run by the City of London, the traffic-free square was re-landscaped using natural stone – tracing the former oval shaped layout, the soft landscaping balances the natural world with the surrounding buildings. Seating provision, lighting and a water feature make the space an ideal escape.
These gardens lay on the footing of the medieval church of St Mary Aldermanbury, which after being destroyed in the Great Fire of London, was rebuilt to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, only to be destroyed once again during the Blitz in 1940. The ruins were then moved and reconstructed as part of a memorial to Winston Churchill in the grounds of Westminster College Missouri, where he famously delivered his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech. Tucked away, the gardens provide a place for reflection and rest as visitors are gently reminded of the site’s historical provenance through its landscaping and sculptures.
Comprising many complex layers of architectural and archeological history, the site has been home to the City of London Corporation for over 800 years. The current Guildhall building was predominantly built from 1411 to 1440, with the present grand entrance, in Hindoostani Gothic style, added in 1788 by architect George Dance. After more than a century of searching by archaeologists, London’s Roman Amphitheatre was rediscovered in 1988, hidden beneath Guildhall Yard. The original Saxon guildhall was most likely built on this spot because of the historic amphitheater. The black circle paved on the courtyard, designed by Richard Gilbert Scott, marks its outline. Gilbert Scott was also responsible for the design of the modern West Wing and Guildhall Art Gallery. On a summer lunchtime the Yard plays host to hundreds of City workers, escaping the office to soak up the sun on the stone paving.
Named after Nicholas Throckmorton, chief banker of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the head of an ancient Warwickshire family, Throgmorton Street runs from Old Broad Street towards the Bank of England. The London Stock Exchange formerly occupied the southern side of the street. It was also once the home of Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII's chief minister.
Adams Court faces Drapers’ Hall, and was probably the home of Sir Thomas Adams, Master of the Drapers Company and Lord Mayor of London during the Civil War (1642-1651)
This new skyscraper in the heart of the city has been designed to prioritise the health and wellbeing of those who work there, with a range of facilities and services not provided in traditional offices. Designed by PLP Architecture for Lipton Rogers and AXA, in addition to 1.2m flexible workspace, businesses will benefit from over 200,000 sq ft of communal amenity spaces, including a food hall, private club, wellbeing retreat, fitness studio with 25th story climbing window and London’s largest cycle park. Construction is due to complete later this year with tenants moving in from 2021.
One Fen Court, designed by Eric Parry Architects for Generali, comprises a mix of office and retail space and one of the only free and publicly accessible roof gardens in the city. The Garden at 120, which was designed in collaboration with landscape architect Latz + Partner, is a unique, open-air area for the public and tenants alike, offering panoramic views across the City to the Tower of London and beyond. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the streets below, The Garden at 120 is an urban oasis that can be appreciated from within as well as from the taller surrounding buildings.
This ruin, a Grade I listed building, was originally built as a church in 1100. It was severely damaged during the Great Fire of London, and rather than being completely rebuilt, Christopher Wren was tasked with designing the new tower and steeples. These, and the north and south walls, are all that remain following the church’s destruction during the Blitz. After WWII, it was decided not to rebuild St Dunstan's – instead, the City of London Corporation turned the ruins of the church into a public garden, which opened in 1971. It now provides a peaceful sanctuary for city workers and tourists – a true hidden gem within the city.