Matthew Barnett: Rivers of Green


London is a world city. It is simultaneously expanding and contracting, growing ever-outwards – and upwards – yet on the brink of divorce from the neighbouring continent. The next generation of designers must deliver fresh thinking to tackle issues that range from the scale of the street to global climate change. We asked pioneering graduates from the LSA how they’d adapt London to ensure that it is inclusive of its citizens, integrated with nature and fit for the future

Addressing London’s twin challenges of retaining affordable industrial space while seeking to deliver ambitious housing targets, this bold proposal transforms the existing railway network into a ‘river of green’.

Since 2001, London has lost 1,300 hectares of industrial land, much of it to residential developments, and this pressure is only likely to intensify with efforts to build 60,000 new homes per year. This project has identified an opportunity to develop over existing railway infrastructure, much of which is in public ownership.

This has the advantage of being able to combine the two uses in section, with industrial spaces on the lower ground levels – which are easier to access for deliveries and dispatch – and housing above (for privacy and views). Affordable residential rentals are included for on-site staff accommodation.

Using Southwark as a test case, 4,000 new homes could be created over the 40 hectares of railway in the borough, adapting a structural template to meet varied site constraints. At a city scale, this green infrastructure could provide walking and cycling routes between major transport hubs, serving to offset the embodied carbon required for development and combating CO2 emissions.