Mayor issues design challenge to landscape profession in bid to green capital city

Landscape designers challenged to provide a dynamic creative force to help green capital city.

High Line competition: generating new ideas for greening the capital - image: High Line
High Line competition: generating new ideas for greening the capital - image: High Line

London mayor Boris Johnson has thrown down a challenge to landscape designers to "think out of the box" and give dynamic creative force to green London.

Environmental and political adviser Matthew Pencharz used the launch of a show of entries to a recent Landscape Institute competition inspired by New York's High Line to call for more outlandish plans for projects such as Johnson's vow to create 100 pocket parks.

"We can never rest on our laurels and the mayor takes very seriously the need to expand green spaces," said Pencharz. "He is receptive to out-of-the-box ideas and some of these entries tick that box." While Johnson was in India drumming up investment recently, he was looking at competition entries and will "come back with ideas", added Pencharz.

Landscape Institute president Sue Illman said green infrastructure is soaring up the political agenda. "The Government has understood green infrastructure as a key solution to some of our environmental problems through the (natural environment) white paper. But we have much to do to ensure green infrastructure is fully integrated into developments to optimise their value.

"Green infrastructure is also highly effective at delivering the real results we need to achieve as set out in the water framework directive. The deadlines are clear but the progress has been slow and the High Line competition has generated widespread interest."

She added: "The UK has committed to promote green infrastructure and the landscape profession must work alongside architects, engineers and urban designers. Our mantra is let us work together more collaboratively and more often to maximise benefit for our cities."

Landscape architect Johanna Gibbons said: "I get excited about what green infrastructure means but it can seem rather dull, heavy and elusive. This competition lifted the lid to a bigger audience, using the High Line as inspiration, so let's not lose the momentum."

Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward said while Paris, Berlin and Vienna have glamour, London has 50,000ha of green spaces, while 24 per cent of land mass is private gardens.

"The competition, which drew 170 entries, shows many people don't think we've got the balance right. The High Line is important because of its design excellence. It challenges monumentality and has captured the imagination of a wider audience. But it needs to capture the audience of politicians."

For further details, see

Design Contest: Green spaces for London

Inspired by the High Line in New York, the London mayor, Landscape Institute and Garden Museum launched a competition to generate ideas for new green spaces in London.

Entrants were encouraged to focus on transport or other services that add to the capital's green infrastructure. The competition aimed to show how green infrastructure - the network of green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages, towns and cities - can have a huge and exciting impact on the way in which we live in the capital.

The winner was Fletcher Priest Architects for a scheme to transform a disused "mail rail" tunnel underneath Oxford Street in London into an urban mushroom garden.

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