Past Events

The Architecture and Construction of Bedford Square 1775–1783

Research Lunch, Walking Tour – Benedict O'Looney

  • 1 July 2022
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • This event is part of the Bedford Square Walking Tours, Research Lunch series
  • Paul Mellon Centre

The fine houses that comprise Bedford Square are the culmination of the development of the town house in London at a time when it was Europe’s leading capital city.

Although now seen as the epitome of Georgian urban elegance, when constructed these houses were filled with modern innovation, combining traditional construction with industrially produced components, all shaped by the emergence of modern, post-Fire-of-London building regulations.

This afternoon walk looks first at the development of the urban square in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century London. These squares gave physical and social order to the new West End as London swiftly expanded into the fields and market gardens west of the City and Holborn. Fuelled by the ingenious leasehold system, London’s buoyant building industry and the Enlightenment vision of a modern city, the capital’s wealthy landowners turned their estates into urban areas with minimal outlay and splendid effect.

Following this we will look at detail in the construction of these houses exploring their structure, materials and sophisticated neoclassical decoration. We will see how these robust structures elegantly accommodated changes of use as the town houses metamorphosed in the twentieth century into offices and academic buildings.

Finally, thanks to post-war heritage protection, we will see how new development has grown up around the landmark Bedford Square, gently altering its setting without eroding its peace, order and beauty.

Image Caption: Georgian houses, calibrated by building regulations, London, 1780, Image courtesy of Benedict O’Looney

About the speaker

  • Benedict O'Looney Head and shoulders

    Benedict O’Looney runs an architecture studio in south London, working on new build and conservation projects, particularly in Southwark, including the renovation of the Grade ll listed Peckham Rye Station for Network Rail and Southwark Council. Other recent work includes a new women’s and children’s wing for the Croydon Mosque, a new mosque for Purley and the restoration and extension of the Grade ll listed Victorian Royal Bell Hotel in Bromley.

    Since obtaining his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University, Benedict worked with Grimshaw and Alsop Architects, where an interest in new architecture in historic settings was developed. Benedict taught architecture history and sketching for eleven years at the Architectural Association, at the Kent School of Architecture, the Canterbury School of Architecture, and for New York University’s London program. He is chairman of Southwark’s Conservation Areas Advisory Group, on the Victorian Society’s Southern Building Committee and a past president of the London Sketch Club.