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Gillett Square

A master class in community architecture

A man reading a newspaper in Gillet square, and another person walking through the square.

An internationally recognised model for social regeneration, creating a unique place in the heart of Dalston.

A 'before' picture of Gillett Square, when it was car park.
The previous derelict car park that was converted into a new town square
The previous derelict car park that was converted into a new town square
A 'before' picture of Gillett Square, when it was car park.
The previous derelict car park that was converted into a new town square
The previous derelict car park that was converted into a new town square

We started working on Gillett Square in the 1990s when it was a disused car park, surrounded by derelict buildings, and inhabited by drunks and drug dealers. How were we going to transform it into a public space where people of all ages could come together?

People walking around Gillett Square during an event
And older man and young child sat down and playing chess in Gillett Square

We worked in close partnership with Groundwork East London and Hackney Cooperative Developments (HCD) to prepare a masterplan of a sustainable, community-led space to represent local cultures and ethnic groups.

Aerial view of someone walking across Gillett Square
Bike ramps and benches in Gillett Square

We helped to raise funds to convert a derelict Victorian terrace in Bradbury Street into workshops, studios and shops, and designed and built a circular building at the entrance of the square to house HCD’s headquarters.

A young child posing outside a market pod at Gillett Square
Market pods at Gillett Square
Household supplies being sold at a market pod at Gillett Square

By introducing market pods, we established local trading, and further funding enabled us to convert two derelict terraced buildings into the Dalston Culture Club, which attracted the Vortex Jazz Club, introducing a popular destination and 24/7 activity into the area.

A musical banc playing instruments and performing in Gillett Square
Performers on stage during an event at Gillet Square

To support and connect these new buildings, we converted the derelict car park into a new town square; knitting together the surrounding buildings and providing communal outdoor space for performances and teaching.

Aerial view of Gillett Square
Bike ramps in Gillett Square
On a Saturday, if we’re around we’ll always come to the square to see what’s happening, as there’s usually something interesting and quirky going on. Also, it’s always free, which is really important for us and other people.
A man holding his shopping bags while looking at Gillett Square
A woman wearing a costume for an event at Gillet Square
Skateboarders skating in Gillett Square

Today Gillett Square is a vibrant ecosystem with a truly diverse range of visitors and tenants. It provides low-rent workspaces, cultural venues, a vivid night economy, affordable retail units and a generous public realm that hosts a variety of free events throughout the year. The square accommodates a broad demographic: local drinkers, young skateboarders as well as Dalston hipsters.

It’s no longer seen as a dangerous place. People stop here and have lunch; mothers and children come through on the way back from school; and we also have skateboarders, radio-controlled cars, mini-handball and dance rehearsals here. We can do all these events because the square has been designed to be flexible.

Project details

Project name: Gillett Square

Location: London, UK

Service: Social research

Value: £20M – £50M

Scope: Architecture, Urban design, Masterplanning

Clients: Hackney Co-operative Developments, London Borough of Hackney, SRB Haggerston, ERDF, Groundwork Hackney, MacDonald Egan

Status: Complete

Completion date: 2007

Landscape architects: Whitelaw Turkington

Contractor: London Borough of Hackney Term Contracting


WAN Awards 2012
Effectiveness - Winner

If you want to know more about our workplace work, contact Nick Gaskell

If you want to know more about our civic, community & culture work, contact Adam Cossey