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Bedford Square: Creating Social Distance

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  • Until 9 September 2022
  • Drawing Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Bedford Square has always been acclaimed as an outstanding piece of urban planning. Built between 1775–1782, the fifty-three houses of the square – all but one arranged in apparently symmetrical order, in four “palace-fronted terraces” around a gated, landscaped garden – are considered exemplars of Georgian architecture. The arrangement of the buildings remains intact, and many original architectural details and even interiors are preserved along with much of the character of the private garden, making Bedford Square one of the most complete survivals of Georgian London.

Photo of view over Bedford Square

View of Bedford Square from the North side, Photo: PMC

Through literature on Bedford Square’s architectural history and records of its inhabitants, this Drawing Room Display highlights the way that classic Georgian architecture created forms of social distancing: in its physical form; in creating closed and exclusive urban sites; through its internal spaces which separated inhabitants and allocated roles in highly predictable ways; and its aesthetic values which lay claim to supposedly timeless and universal principles of classical design and geometrical order.

Alison Shepherd, Drawing of 'First', 'Second' and 'Third Rate' houses, in John Summerson, Georgian London, fig. 54, Image courtesy of Alison Shepherd / Trustees of the Estate of John Summerson

Mark Road, South side of Bedford Square, London, offered for sale at about £2,000,000, 1970, All rights reserved