Boris Johnson opens restored London square after £160m investment by Imperial College London

Prince’s Gardents

Mayor of London meets students in Prince's Gardens to celebrate completion of seven year project - <em>News release</em>

For immediate release
Friday 15 January 2010

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A newly restored square in the heart of London’s cultural quarter is officially opened today by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The £160 million investment in Prince’s Gardens, South Kensington, by Imperial College London has seen the construction of seven new halls of residence and a state of the art sports centre, plus the landscaping of the Gardens themselves.

During his visit, the Mayor will tour one of the new halls and meet students living there, who will demonstrate their culinary skills for him in one of the communal kitchens. He will then open the square with a speech and the unveiling of a plaque.

Work on the square began in 2002 and has included demolishing out-dated student accommodation, built in the 1960s, and replacing it with modern buildings that house over 800 students and are designed to fit in aesthetically with the local area. The Gardens have been landscaped with new pathways and plane trees, and the original railings and decorative central urn have been returned. The work was completed in summer 2009, in time for the final halls of residence to welcome their first students in October.

Sir Keith O'Nions, Rector of Imperial College London, says:

“Exhibition Road is one of the great cultural thoroughfares of London and also an extremely popular one, bringing in around eleven and a half million visitors each year. Prince’s Gardens is a pleasant and peaceful spot for them as well as for our students, staff and neighbours, and I’m proud that Imperial has restored it to such high quality. We’re all honoured that the Mayor is joining us to celebrate the completion of the work.

“It’s extremely important for a university in the heart of London to provide good quality accommodation close to its campus. A high proportion of the students living in these residences are new to this city and many are new to the UK. Living alongside students in the same situation and with the main campus just across the road makes a real difference to how quickly they settle in and feel at home.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson says:

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“London is by far the best capital city in the world to come to as a student and Imperial ranks amongst the very finest of universities. The restoration and development of the Prince's Gardens site, in the heart of London's inspiring museum quarter, will attract the very best minds to the capital keeping Imperial at the forefront of discovery and learning. Its contribution to science is already supreme. This is London's true seat of wisdom and it is unrivalled. I want to see more Nobel Prize winners cut their teeth in South Kensington."

Imperial acquired Prince’s Gardens in 1956 as a site for student residences, and the first four halls, collectively known as Southside, were opened by Princess Margaret in October 1963. Over time, however, these buildings became increasingly out-dated and unsuitable, with no en suite bathrooms, inadequate kitchens and poor disabled access.

Planning permission to demolish and replace these buildings was granted in 2005. Since then, two new accommodation buildings have been constructed: Southside, comprising four halls of residence with 413 beds, which opened in October 2007 and Eastside, comprising three halls with 453 beds, which opened in October 2009. The buildings are lower in height than their predecessors, bringing them into line with the adjacent nineteenth century terraces to match the overall sense of the square.

In addition to this work, the College’s sports centre Ethos was opened on the north side of the square in April 2006 by Sir Roger Bannister, an alumnus of Imperial. As well as offering students free access to the gym and 25 metre swimming pool, Ethos is also available to staff and local residents and attracts around 1,000 users each day.

Completing the square’s restoration is investment in housing for the College’s Institute for Mathematical Sciences, expanded conference facilities and the refurbishment of three Victorian terraces and three mews properties for private let.

The work was carried out in consultation with local residents and construction projects were designed to cause minimum disruption, including off-site pre-fabrication of much of the material used in the buildings.

Boris Johnson's visit


For more information contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to editors:

New or refurbished buildings in Prince’s Gardens

*Southside, incorporating Selkirk, Tizard, Falmouth and Keogh halls of residences
*Eastside, incorporating Gabor, Linstead and Wilkinson halls of residence
*Ethos sports centre at 7 Prince’s Gardens
*Private properties at 46-48 Prince’s Gardens
*The Institute of Mathematical Sciences at 53 Prince’s Gate
*Conference facilities at 52 and 58 Prince’s Gate

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative re s earch at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve health in the UK and globally, tackle climate change and develop clean and sustainable sources of energy.


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