The 21st Century look for London’s 19th Century iconic location was unveiled 15 years ago on this day. As some of you will remember, it previously had traffic on all sides. This work reduced traffic to just three sides and introduced a new piazza and stairs leading down from the National Gallery, essentially doubling the square’s real estate space.
It was officially opened by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The design was drawn up by Norman Foster as part of the World Squares For All project. The project was approved by Westminster Council in February 1998.
The architects’ original 1998 design for the square – without toilet facilities, cafe, or accessible lifts
So many people liked the new look square. It was done down to the small details including the imperial measurements previously elsewhere in the square. Part of the issue with the old look square was accessibility and the need to cross very busy roads to reach it. Ultimately the project was greatly enhanced by the addition of a new toilet block, cafe, etc and thus a pair of accessible lifts were also added.
On this same day in July 2003 two London major projects were officially opened. That at Trafalgar Square and the nearby Golden Jubilee Bridges. Though the bridges had all the pomp and ceremony for the official opening by Princess Alexandra, the square’s opening captured the public’s imagination much more. There were fireworks and performers to entertain the hundreds of well wishers who came to see the celebrations. Naturally it rained!
The following photographs are my own record of the Trafalgar Square works’ progress in 2002/2003. This was the early days of digital cameras and I had just acquired a Sony Cybershot DCS-P30, 1.3 megapixel size images. Despite the small size it took great pics especially at night.
A London scene no-more! Twas a rainy night in 2002 with buses queuing in front of the National Gallery
Who could ever forget the square’s previous inhabitants? The hordes of pigeons happily enjoying the square unaware of the authorities’ evil plans to eliminate every one of them. September 2002.
Trafalgar Square – north side fenced off and works under way. Notice the position of the old sculptures, now moved to the sides. September 2002
Preliminary work on the North Terrace itself began during late 2001. By September 2002 the road alongside the National Gallery was closed. The entire project took the best part of a year and a half to complete.
The north side road closed was off in September 2002
Although much of the new works were fenced off a good vantage point of these could be had from the National Gallery’s terrace or the upper decks of a London bus. Eventually a great big hole appeared in the top part of the square! This space would ultimately be for the cafe and toilet block.
View of the square’s old arrangement as the works got seriously underway. September 2002
Yikes! They’re really digging the place up! Going for gold it seems! October 2002
A little known part of the works included enlarging the Charles I island. October 2002
View of the National Gallery Xmas Eve 2002 – notice the bus stops/road signs still in place three months after the road was closed… lol
Xmas eve 2002. Methinks this looks a bit like the TMA-1 crater scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey
In the last couple of months the square’s works were hidden by new fencing depicting a series of comic illustrations of famous London scenes. Here’s a couple….
The young princes were incarcerated in the Tower during 1483, but not by Ant and Dec – contrary to rumours!
This one shows the Metropolitan Railway. The classes of accommodation are: 21st century, 2nd, 1st, and fat cat class!
Making fun of the Metropolitan Railway’s opening in 1863! The fact they’ve included a massively overcrowded 21st century class wagon on the trains tells us nothing’s changed. Commuters are these days still being crammed into the most unacceptable conditions, the result being many are simply giving up expensive, stressful commuting in search of a better life….
Hordes of contractors vans – engineers and staff and equipment working overtime to get the square ready for its official opening on 2nd July 2003. Musn’t let Princess Alexandra and her Golden Jubilee Bridges get ahead and steal the day!
The fencing and adverts come down and the new square’s opened. Tourists loving it! Summer 2003
Let’s dance! Huge samba festival in the summer of 2003 making full use of the new look square
The new look Trafalgar Square’s first ever Xmas. There’s now been fourteen of these!
Sadly some people don’t like the new square, not even now. In 2009 the National Gallery’s boss kicked up a rumpus and demanded the square be restored to its previous appearance with a restored road in front of the gallery!
From the Daily Mail 10th July 2009
Even now the gallery is still requesting changes be made, as it says the street arts and performers outside its frontage is akin to having a circus on its doorstep and wants a space that instead works for the gallery. See Independent, Standard.