After the success of New York’s highly acclaimed High Line landscape architecture retrofit, the idea of redeveloping and reclaiming industrial wastelands in cities worldwide has taken off.
While New York is in the midst of developing the equally innovative Low Line, across the pond, London designers are bringing their own twist to the concept with a winning tender chosen for the London High Line competition.
The winning concept could not be further removed from its US predecessor. Out of 170 tenders, the London Landscape Institute has selected a plan conceptualised by Fletcher Priest Architects.
According to the architects, their ‘Pop Down’ concept “seeks to capitalize on a forgotten network of tunnels under London, an urban experience where visitors can embark on an expedition underground.”
The concept outlays the development of an underground urban mushroom farm stretching throughout the city’s old Mail Rail tunnels, which are essentially nine-foot-wide tubes originally used to transport mail throughout the city. Pop Down brings the unique English wilderness into the depths of the capital city.
The space is prime location for mushroom growth, with intermittent lighting provided by tunnel skylights that will be worked along the ground above in a series of glass-fibre ‘mushrooms.’
Not only will the underground farm act a as a visually stunning and culturally contextualised community space, but the produce grown in the depths of the old tunnels will be used in new pop-up ‘Funghi’ restaurants and cafes that will sit at the entrances to the space.
Ticking boxes of social, environmental and economic sustainability, it is little wonder this specific concept has trumped all others to come to earn the £2,500 prize.
The appeal of such concepts is proving to be incredibly far reaching, with these new developments offering to bring a ‘best of both worlds’ element to even the most dense and urban of spaces. According to the High Line’s original co-founder Robert Hammond, who sat on the jury panel, this sense of urban community continues to drive these concepts.
“They’re part of the city,” he says. “By nature they’re narrower, but they are connected to the city. What makes these parks interesting is that they’re knitted into the city.”
The architects have been commended for their contextualisation of the concept, the holistic nature of their design and the uniqueness of character in bringing forward the next big thing in global industrial reclamation projects.