Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
The winner of the "High Line for London" competition isn't very high at all.
You might want to have a seat for this one: London could soon be getting an underground mushroom garden.
London was envious of New York's High Line project, so Mayor Boris Johnson and the Landscape Institute held an international competition called "A High Line for London" soliciting proposals for the transformation of industrial sites into public space. See the shortlist here.
The winner, "Pop Down" by Fletcher Priest Architects, was selected from over 170 entries. It imagines a renovation of the Mail Rail tunnel under Oxford Street that would see the old railway turned into an underground park, lit by way of fiberoptic mushroom sculptures above the ground. Those above-ground mushrooms would also delineate the tunnel's route for passersby on the street. (New York thought of this too -- you gotta wake up pretty early in the morning... )
If this does not seem to you like the kind of place you'd like to spend an afternoon, remember that the weather in London is awful, and that Oxford Street is a most crowded and unpleasant place to be in any weather. Unlike New York's High Line, which aims to draw people in, "Pop Down" seems like it might be a respite from the crowds. According to the Fletcher Priest website, "This will be an underground oasis for mosses, lichen and funghi, where the mycelium and basidiomycete are king."
Unfortunately, this was just a call for proposals, and there is no guarantee that anything will be built.
The runner-up, by the way, was the Y/N Studio entry "Lido Line" that proposed the creation of filtered-water commuter swim lanes in a canal, which would double as an ice skating highway in the winter.
Images courtesy of Fletcher Priest and Y/N Studio, via Landscape Institute.