Just moments from Oxford Street, this is a newish pocket park that sits inside a new mixed development of offices and residential flats with a semi-public square in the middle.
Named after one of the roads it’s next to, Rathbone Square was built on the site of the former Royal Mail sorting office, and although the old site was flattened to be redeveloped, hidden from view four floors below ground right under the pocket park is the disused Post Office railway.
Back above ground, the central square has been divided into four zones, the woodland, the lawn, the “garden rooms”, and an entrance garden, which depending on which of the three entrances you use, is either the entrance garden, the exit garden, or the didn’t see it garden.
Two flat sheets of stone have water flowing over the top, which are described as “reflecting tables”, or could be described as “don’t sit here tables”.
An interesting constraint is that as the whole garden is built over a basement, they’ve had to raise up the beds around the edges to give enough soil depth for the trees, and that’s also why the raised seating areas have the trees rather than ornamental plants in them.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly conventional modern design for a public space, long rows of stone seating surrounding plants, and a number of delicate water features around the edges.
Dogs are not allowed on the lawn.
Before redevelopment, the site was also the temporary home to a Banky graffiti that was later painted over. Today it’d be a main feature of the development.
There is a curious accident in the placement of the artwork, as the new development on the site is also home to offices, and the largest tenant is Facebook’s UK head office. A firm whose efforts to monitor everything we do make CCTVs look like a minor bit player in the surveillance world.
There are gates on the three entrances, and they are closed at night so that the pocket park becomes a private space for the residents of the flats surrounding it.
The southern entrance is a conventional open plaza, but the two northern entrances are tile lined corridors under the residential flats, and are much more interesting to look at. Both are lined in jade faience tiles, and the brass gates on both were designed by Scottish artist Robert Orchardson.
Although the park is modest, it’s very well hidden and makes for a pleasing break from the noise and bustle of Oxford Street.