The rows of London terrace houses look familiar enough. But the space once filled with cars and tarmac is now home to long grass, miniature allotments and a winding footpath.
This is one of the winning visions in a competition to imagine a greener future for London. Specifically, entrants were asked to picture the capital as the world's first National Park City — the ultimate goal of an ongoing campaign to celebrate, and improve, London's green credentials.
Here are the four winning ideas, followed by three 'highly commended' proposals, from a pool of 50 entrants. All show ways in which we can bring nature, or natural elements, back into the city centre.
1. The Trail
Shown above. Chris Rossetto and Emma Lubbers. The trail would promote a more relaxed journey by forming "an uninterrupted garden path of peaceful green spaces, winding through inner London’s iconic neighbourhoods and linking its parks into a single continuous woven landscape."
Our verdict: A laudable vision, but the devil would be in the details. How do you get a buggy across that long grass? How will the council collect wheelie bins? Where is the dog poo hiding?
2. Rewild my Street
Siân and Jon Moxon. Take a terrace street and "transform it into a haven for wildlife by adding wildflower meadows, patio ponds, bird feeders and insect hotels — and watch the wildlife return in droves."
Our verdict: Nothing radical here, but a useful check sheet for any Londoners lucky enough to live in a house and/or have a garden.
3. The Living Network
Architects Farrells. This would use an app and website to "formally combine all of the environmental layers of London into one single green infrastructure network so that Londoners can better discover, learn from, protect and grow green city environments."
Our verdict: We could definitely get behind an app that helps you navigate the green bits of London. You might use it to find a more pleasant route into work, for example. There's little in the way of detail here, though.
4. London Green Bus Network
Anne Frobeen. New bus routes linking up green spaces. "The buses themselves would visually highlight green connections in the city and physically make it easier for a wider range of people, ages and abilities to get out and explore."
Our verdict: A neat idea, especially if such buses could take routes directly through some of the parks whose centres are currently not served by public transport (e.g. a bus to the hilltop in Greenwich Park, or a route that goes round the Inner Circle of Regent's Park).
5. The Blue Line
Dimitris Grozopoulos. A specific proposal for Nine Elms that could be scaled up elsewhere. The Blue Line "invites the local community to engage with and celebrate water in the public realm through a series of pocket parks with water as a joining artery".
Our verdict: Nice idea in theory — though the concept images don't really give us much clue of what's intended. We don't know anyone who would 'engage with water in the public realm', though we've encountered many who would piss into a fountain.
6. Hackney: an Integrated Approach
Loredana Micu. A plan for a "strong integrated system of green areas, public spaces, communities and administrations for part of Hackney".
Our verdict: We're sure that would be lovely, but the words and image don't help us form much of an idea of what that looks like in practice.
7. Loft Gardens
Studio Octopi. As the name suggests, this is a plan to use the rooftops as garden spaces. "Loft Gardens could be used for vegetable patches or beehives; and could, for example, alternate down a terraced street, providing vitality and biodiversity to new and existing housing stock, as well as enhancing health and well-being and improving air quality."
Our verdict: Well, wouldn't this be charming? Of all the ideas here, this is the least vague; the easiest to imagine. Retrofitting existing houses like this would be costly, though. And imagine the plague of Dick van Dyke wannabies, running across the rooftops from garden to garden.
Do any of these ideas appeal to you? Take a look at the website of the National Park City Foundation, and join in the conversation about London's green future.