Wednesday, May 16, 2012
A project to liberate long-concealed areas of Kensington Palace has successfully transformed its outside spaces. However, the interior renovations are underwhelming
Every year more than seven million people stroll the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens, the north-south avenue that separates the private royal world of Kensington Palace from the public park that sprawls to the east. Until recently, few ever strayed beyond this western limit, the presence of a 2.4m- high spiky fence and thick shrubbery signalling the royal realm as clearly off-limits.
And yet it was not. Since the 1920s, a large part of Kensington Palace has been open to the public — for those determined enough to find the entrance.
“I remember coming across an American family who were in tears because they couldn’t find the way in,” says Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, the landscape architect who has worked to reinstate the palace with a new public setting as part of a £12 million renovation, completed last month. “A lot of people didn’t even know it was there.”
Over the years, the palace had retreated further and further behind layers of fences and foliage, with trees planted for privacy along the eastern front, and visitors forced to navigate around to a low-key entrance from the north.
“Our primary aim has been to make the palace part of the landscape again, as was always intended,” says Longstaffe-Gowan, describing how the history of the building’s successive improvements and additions had always been based on opening up views, not retreating behind protective suburban screens.
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Originally published in BD, 16 May 2012