The Boundary Gardens at the heart of the Boundary Estate in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is a remarkable and historically significant place. The Boundary Estate was the first publicly funded social housing scheme built in the UK, formally opened in 1900, and now designated as a Conservation Area. The vision for the housing estate was originally designed around the circular gardens, raised on a tiered and planted mound with a bandstand as the central element. This was the first time that a social space, primarily for public arts and cultural events was seen as a fundamental part of, and central to the design of a social housing scheme. The Gardens are listed on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England at Grade II. The Grade II listed bandstand, railings and overthrows were in such poor condition due to vandalism and decay, that they were listed on English Heritage’s Building at Risk Register (2007).

The transformation of the space has been profound. Arnold Circus now makes a real difference to the local community, improving the perception of an area that had a reputation of anti-social behaviour, and now attracting an increased number of visitors to its restored events space. The project highlights successful principles of landscape and urban design that have stood the test of time. Meticulous care was taken to retain original design intent; with the exception of the new planting, no elements were added that would conflict with original design.

Key achievements:

• A key cultural and architectural landmark which has particular significance to the local community.

• Demonstrates how community groups can successfully lobby for improvements in their local environment, influence the space’s design and management process.

• Successful balance achieved between careful restorations of the historic features and overall
structure of the Gardens to EH approval yet adding a contemporary layer through the planting design to meet community’s key requirement to improve biodiversity.

• Planting comprises perennial flowers, grasses and ferns, providing cross seasonal colour.

• Restoration carefully researched followed by meticulous workmanship to realise the restoration.

• Community was fully engaged during all phases. This included public consultation, archaeological dig, use of time lapse photography during construction.

• Restored gardens and bandstand have reconnected the community space now used for wide range of events: music, dancing, Carrom championship, cycling race, Arnold Day and the Sharing Picnic.

• Beauty restored to a space once perceived as antisocial and unsafe, with the uniqueness of Owen Fleming’s original tiered ‘wedding cake’ design revealed.

Approximate Map Location


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