Passengers at St James's Park tube station will have spotted something rather unusual on their morning commute recently. Can you see what it is?
That's right — there's a miniature garden growing inside the former ticket office. We can't think of anything we'd rather have occupying the space behind those long forgotten windows (other than actual staff, right?).
Tasked with the wonderful job description of 'surprising and delighting' customers, TfL's Customer Strategy Lead approached The Edible Bus Stop group to transform the erstwhile offices into something green and engaging.
The station selected was St James's Park, below TfL's own headquarters at 55 Broadway. Of course it was, the cheeky buggers. That said, this does make it easier for them to pop downstairs with a watering can.
Of course, we're just jealous that our tube station doesn't yet have a tiny tropical park like this.
Pointing out that most urban dwellers spend 80% of their time indoors, project chiefs set out to introduce a green interior space that has a positive, de-stressing impact on those that pass through. Shuttered ticket offices have been swapped for windows into the natural world — and we think they've done a cracking job.
A representative of the project told us that the new mini gardens have even had the unintended side effect of cleaning the station's filthy black air. The previously dust-covered, musty old ticket office now smells delightful, and there isn't a spec of dust on any of the plants.
Over a year in the planning, the organisers had to work hard to curate the perfect garden. As you'd expect, stringent fire regulations meant that the grow units had to adhere to an array of safety requirements — no plastic sealants were allowed, nor lights that produce heat, to name but two.
The plants too, were carefully selected to ensure they'd be the right fit for these very specific environmental conditions. Minimum maintenance was the goal here, and the plants selected only need watering once every three weeks. Some, though, grew too fast to be suitable for these little ticket office cubby-holes. Not that they look small, mind — the mirrored walls give the illusion of a never-ending green abyss.
We're told that other planting plans are already on the drawing board, as the success of this project could see it roll out to other tube stations in the future. Founding director, Mak Gilchrist, tells us that his personal favourite is a tiny Japanese themed zen garden, complete with bonsai tree.
Take a look for yourself at St James's Park tube, Palmer Street entrance, open 5am-8pm Mon-Fri.