In the run up to COP26, three architectural interventions in London show how to creatively reclaim nature in cities facing climate change
Words by Francesca Perry
Along Exhibition Road, the shared-space street in London’s South Kensington nestled between major museums, three new architectural installations have arrived that each integrate nature in a propositional way. Together forming the South Ken Green Trail, the creative project – installed until mid-October – results from a competition organised by the London Festival of Architecture and Discover South Kensington. As the UK looks ahead to hosting the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November – amid a critically urgent climate crisis – the installations hope to show how to better enhance, integrate and reclaim nature in London’s public spaces.
The Algae Meadow (below), by Seyi Adelekun and Wayward in partnership with the V&A, is a wooden-arched walkway which supports a vertical wildflower meadow and hydroponic algae canopy. The team worked with specialists at UCL and Imperial College to harvest and cultivate algae from the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, and the installation aims to show how algae can be an eco-friendly and cost-effective way of enhancing soil without degrading the ecosystem. The Algae Meadow is constructed from local, responsibly sourced and recycled material – and was built in collaboration with London-based students and the Black Females in Architecture network.
Home Away From Hive (top), by Mizzi Studio in partnership with the Science Museum, comprises a ‘nest-like’ timber lattice layered with medicinal plants. The installation – which, like The Algae Meadow, can be walked through – is designed to provide a hive of discovery, education and biodiversity.
Windflower (below) – by Urban Radicals with Adam Harris in association with the Goethe-Institut – turns a blade from a decommissioned wind turbine into striking raised street planters. The re-purposed blade is planted with wildflowers to attract wild pollinators while inviting visitors to rethink how we use our buildings and upcycle components to avoid waste.
Inevitably, the climate crisis won’t be solved by small-scale, bottom-up creative interventions, but projects like these hopefully demonstrate what is possible and increase the appetite for greener urbanism that meaningful policy can enable.
Photography by Luke O’Donovan
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