The Landscape Institute, Garden Museum and Mayor of London launched ‘A High Line for London: Green Infrastructure Ideas Competition for a new London landscape’. Inspired by New York’s High Line, it was judged by a panel of experts including the founders of the High Line, entrants were challenged to put forward innovative concepts that create imaginative new green space in the capital.
This was our entry:
The people of Deptford are more aware of the importance of green infrastructure than most. Deptford Green is one of the preferred sites for linkage to the new ‘Super Sewer’ project being proposed by Thames Water. Those opposed to the proposals have highlighted the fact that a scheme based partly on the use of green infrastructure could provide multiple benefits at less cost.
Street Forage is our response to both the brief and also to the above. What better place to demonstrate an innovative multi functional green infrastructure idea? Our office is also on the High Street which helps!
The design is partly inspired by the high line and also from a recent journey that both of the team made to the Forest Garden of Martin Crawford in Devon. We are seeking to provide perennial food whilst at the same time provide a biodiverse rain garden that holds runoff within the hummus in the mounded soil. Some of that run off would be taken up by the plants and duly transpired and some of it would gradually percolate into the subsoil beneath. This is achieved by holding the run off in retention traps filled with reclaimed aggregate before it is absorbed.
Each unit features a landscape mound secured with sustainably sourced coir matting and hazel spars. The plants are then planted through this into a mixture of manufactured soil and active compost. In the middle of each mound is an entire log. As the log breaks down it would gradually release nutrients whilst helping to aerate the soil and retain a core temperature.
Each design could stand alone as well as being linked together to create archipelagos of forage within a given public space.
The planting is entirely inspired by that found in a forest garden. A mixture of groundcover herbs and dynamic accumulators help to prevent erosion, harness minerals from the subsoil and to create hummus as foliage and roots break down. Other plants such as Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) provide a plentiful harvest of tasty berries whilst also fixing Nitrogen into the soil. All plants are either evergreen such as the Nepalese raspberries (Rubus nepalensis), perennial such as the Welsh Onions (Allium fistulosum) or self seeding such as Good King Henry and Swiss Chard. The canopy and root structures mimic that of a young woodland thus maximising all available space, nutrients and light.
The construction is intended to be as modular as possible and as the brief stated that budget is of no concern, the modules are not intended to be mass produced. Instead we propose that the timber seating units be made from laminating reclaimed timber sheets and coating each one in a tough lignin resin. Each one would be unique, these would be made by new carpentry apprentices funded by a Street Forage scheme. The High Line inspired floor modules could either be constructed from durable hardwood or from recycled steel, again each requiring a degree of skilled craftsmanship. Similar those created for The High Line, planting is intended to colonise the larger gaps in the surface in such a way that it seems to bleed outwards.
One of the major challenges of the Street Forage concept is that of persuading people that all of the planting is intended to be harvested. Local engagement and education would be advantageous. Interpretation boards identifying plants and how to harvest them would be essential. A smart phone app could accompany the scheme giving those with a device an in depth insight into the planting featured in each different design. Whist it may not be information that is accessible to all it could still be a very effective way of communicating the ideas. How many different versions of Street Forage could there be? Lots! Spread all over London. Also, Street Fuel? Willow and Hazel coppice could be grown very happily in the street to be coppiced for wood fuel purposes and also weaving… the list goes on.