Case Studies

Princes Circus


Project Director
Tim Stonor

London Borough of Camden

Download PDF version [0.72mb]

The proposed design for Princes Circus

incorporating the closure of Shaftesbury Avenue and the creation of a diagonal "carpet" for pedestrians between the British Museum and Covent Garden.


Pedestrian movement around Princes Circus today is impeded by fast-moving traffic and complicated pedestrian crossings. The public spaces are fragmented, unattractive, and confusing both for people who live and work in the area.

Many people – especially tourists – fail to make the short journey between Covent Garden and the British Museum via Princes Circus because the space appears uninviting and impenetrable. Instead, they take the Underground, resulting in a 30 minute train journey instead of a 5 minute walk. Low levels of pedestrian movement have blighted the local economy and encouraged drug dealing and other anti-social activities.


Space Syntax was asked by Camden Council to redesign Princes Circus to address its present failings. The resulting proposals turn the unpleasant traffic junction into a major route between Covent Garden and Bloomsbury.

The designs emerged following careful analysis and detailed observation studies which showed that, although Princes Circus is strategically located, it forms a barrier to movement through the area. However, with the creation of a new pedestrian link between north and south, Princes Circus can become a focus for everyday pedestrian activity in the local area. In the new design, traffic is reorganised to flow down the sides and across the bottom of the spaces, rather than through the middle of each. This allows the creation of a more effective network of pedestrian routes. A clear landscaping concept – a north-south “catwalk” between two anchor spaces – provides the framework for the lighting and signage strategy.


The Space Syntax design concept has helped marshal the interests of residents and businesses in the local area, including the British Museum.

The design itself has been adopted by local landowner, Legal and General which is redeveloping its St Giles Court site on the south-west side of Princes Circus. The southern part of Princes Circus – to the detailed design of landscape practice West 8 – will be delivered as part of Legal and General’s planning contributions.

“When we show people your work it’s interesting to see how the sparks light up within them.”

Ian Plowright
London Borough of Camden

Princes Circus today

showing the poor pedestrian infrastructure and traffic-dominated landscape.

Current movement potentials

indicating the relative isolation of Princes Circus in the pedestrian route network of central London.

Proposed movement potentials

highlighting the opportunity to transform the public realm of Princes Circus as a key pedestrian route and destination.

View from New Oxford Street

of the diagonal "carpet" through Princes Circus and the animation of the ground floor frontages that line the route.

View from Bloomsbury Street

of the transformed public space of Princes Circus, including a new café pavilion.

Aerial view of the proposed designs looking south towards Covent Garden

showing the transformed space of Princes Circus (to the right of the image) as well as Museum Street (to the left).