Grow:City Greening the last mile in the Square Mile

In late November 2017 The City Centre announced that our shortlisted entry, ‘Grow:City’ for their ‘A Smarter City‘ competition, had won the overall ‘Peoples Choice’ award. A three-part ideas competition, exhibition, series of events and hackathons, was held in partnership with City of London Corporation and Brookfield.

Edible Bus Stop Founding Director, Mak Gilchrist FRSA, writes further.

‘Initially shortlisted for the ‘Smart Green Green Cities’ section of the competition, which invited new ideas on connectivity, biodiversity, health, wellbeing and sustainability, we were delighted to have ‘received by far and away the most amount of votes’ for the overall Public Choice award for all three categories for our entry Grow:City. This signified to us that people relate very much to what we do. It’s not just about the greening, it’s about the design and it’s about creating inclusive active spaces that create narrative environments. 

Grow: is a system of portable modular components, with biophilic design at their core. The system fosters opportunities for social interaction and in turn enhances biodiversity. These instant pocket parks and community kiosks can be positioned into appropriate public realm sites. The units tessellate to fit any space and can easily be relocated should that be required. The sites present a social destination, incorporating enterprise by integrating collection points for eCommerce purchases, thereby greening the ‘last mile’ in the square mile. The concept utilises landscape architecture for the common good.

The portable units deliver an instant transformation, introducing flexible growing spaces and durable modern street furniture, which combines seating and cycle parking with the planted areas. This provides places to congregate and according to the suitability of the site, can include adult play areas; such as boules pitches or ping-pong tables. The focus centres on the greening of the location, adding another layer to greyer areas of the public realm, and in turn, encourages people to interact with each other. These sites can provide gateways and green links to existing pocket parks and secluded squares.

The kiosk element of the scheme acts as pick up and drop off points for eCommerce parcels etc, reducing local congestion and the pollution associated, in turn, addressing the issue of the ‘last mile problem’ through consolidating the delivery chain. This has a vital impact on the improvement of air quality and ease of flow for vehicles in often-congested areas. The kiosks can be multifunctional by also offering everyday services (such as newsagents, key cutting & café’s) responding to local needs and footfall.

Accessible design-led active green spaces have a significant positive impact in the city. The benefits range from physical and psychological health, via the raising of collective serotonin levels associated with greener areas, on to numerous environmental and biodiversity improvements. By increasing opportunities for social interaction and real-life engagement with an individual’s surroundings, away from their smart phone / tablet / computer, a genuine sense of well-being can be fostered. The greenery improves perceptions of safety and can facilitate a reduction in anti-social behaviour – creating longer-term fiscal advantages for local government and businesses alike. Local residents and businesses can be invited to help maintain the gardened spaces. This can be enabled through the creation of gardening hubs, or via CSR initiatives by partnering with corporate organisations that have offices nearby.

We encourage planting easy to grow edibles as well as perennials. Herbs and berries act as pick and go foods according to the suitability of the site. Trained, established fruit trees, provide year-round seasonal interest, and opportunities for urban foraging, alongside acting as wildlife havens. Other planting elements are selected for their ability to reduce air pollution and include wildflower green roofs and ivy walls for the kiosks.

We are working with industrial designers to advance the concept towards initial prototyping. Each unit will have built-in irrigation systems, with water tanks easing watering concerns during dry spells. According to the sites they are to be situated at, they can provide sustainable rainwater drainage, as well as water capture. The units can be levelled to fit with a locations incline and also incorporate monitoring systems that can evaluate and provide feedback on air quality etc. There is also scope for them to include charging points for electric vehicle and mobile devices.

Off-site construction ensures that each unit can offer flexibility to the sites selected and employ an efficient delivery system, via arrival on a flatbed hi-ab lorry to minimise disruption from on-site works. Their ‘temporary’ nature and portability, should address certain planning constraints, as they are in essence, ‘meanwhile’ spaces. They can be moved to ensure easy access to underground services, or relocated if required. This affords a flexibility that permanent structures cannot, whilst maintaining the robust structural integrity public realm furniture requires.

The original concept designs were conceived for the London Festival of Architecture – LFA 2016 and have been developed to meet the Smarter City competition brief.’


NB: All RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017 The Edible Bus Stop®

No publication of the images or text can be made without The Edible Bus Stop’s permission being sought.



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