The LFA, V&A and Discover South Kensington have launched a new competition for an innovative series of installations supporting biodiversity and the recovery of London’s arts and sciences district in South Kensington. This initiative is supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.
The project aims to create a welcoming environment that is attractive and engaging for visitors, residents, students and people working in South Kensington, many of whom will be returning to the area after long absences. In the run-up to the UK hosting the COP26 Summit in November, the project will showcase regenerative design, importance of biodiversity in the built environment, and will also inform longer-term thinking about further improvements to the area’s public realm and ecology.
Architects, landscape architects, artists and designers, including students and recent graduates, are invited to submit a design proposal that can demonstrate how plants, greenery and biodiversity can be creatively embedded in Exhibition Road’s public realm, reclaiming space for nature amidst the bustle of the capital.
This is not the first time that the LFA has collaborated with Exhibition Road. LFA 2008 saw the road closed to traffic for the very first time in order to host a series of public events that summer, and helped to focus thinking around long-term improvements to the public realm on one of London’s key routes. The result – the implementation of Dixon Jones’ pioneering shared spaces scheme for Exhibition Road, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
In keeping with the Festival’s 2021 theme of care, the competition now hopes to promote a message of care for nature, by creating an accessible and engaging public realm experience where planting, biodiversity and ecology can flourish and support local eco-initiatives, such as the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s Bee Superhighway. With sensory elements that evoke surprise and delight, the interventions should also open up the conversation around sustainability and the environment, showcasing the role of design in tackling the challenges presented by climate change. The competition therefore encourages creative responses embracing regenerative design, that go beyond traditional planters or seating provisions.
With a primary focus on sustainability, designers should be conscious of the interventions’ environmental impact from cradle to grave. This includes maximising use of recycled materials and minimising waste and energy impact, while carefully considering the afterlife and legacy of the designs. As part of the project, Discover South Kensington and the London Festival of Architecture will work with the successful entrants on re-siting the installations post-October, including working with Marlborough Primary School to provide a permanent local home for some the plants and materials. This supports the school’s ambition to become an exemplar school in the Borough’s commitment for 2030 carbon zero in all its operations: external planting will form part of this and integral to their pupil educational environment.
The competition entries will be judged by an expert panel including:
- Aindrea Emelife (Journalist and Member of the Mayor’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm)
- Dame Alison Nimmo (Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851)
- Amanda Frame (Chair, The Kensington Society)
- Julia Knights (Deputy Director, Science Museum Group)
- Katrin Sohns (Head of Cultural Programming, Goethe-Institut)
- Meneesha Kellay (Design, Architecture & DigitalFestivals, V&A)
- Kat Scott (ACAN Coordinator for ‘Where the Wild Things Aren’t’ group, Sustainability & Regenerative Design Manager at dRMM, Architects Declare Steering Group member, LETI Circular Economy Workstream Lead)
Panel chair: Rosa Rogina, Programme Director, New London Architecture. Additional advisors: Emily Candler, Executive Director, Exhibition Road Cultural Group and Tom McCarter, Wildlife Garden Manager, Natural History Museum.
Interested applicants are invited to submit their proposal by midday on Monday 10 May 2021. Three winning teams will be awarded £20,000, including a design fee of £3,000, and will be partnered with V&A, Goethe Institute or the Science Museum to develop a fully costed, feasible design for their installation, responding in detail to the specifics of each institution’s brief. This competition is supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, and the interventions will be installed this summer and remain in place until October, as part of LFA’s year-round programme.
Partners across the arts and science district are supporting this project with expertise, programme activities and planting schemes that will contribute to a green trail across the district. These include: Natural History Museum, The Royal Parks, Imperial College London, Royal College of Art, Ismaili Centre, Design Museum, The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace and South Kensington Estates.
Rosa Rogina, director of programme at the London Festival of Architecture, said:
“It’s fantastic to see the London Festival of Architecture turning its attention once again to Exhibition Road. Harnessing architectural and design talent to achieve positive change for the city is fundamental to our mission, as we demonstrated in 2008 when Exhibition Road gave a glimpse of a more humane public realm. Now this competition is a great opportunity for architects and designers to showcase their talent in one of London’s most important locations, and to demonstrate how care for people, places and the planet can and must go hand in hand.”
Meneesha Kellay, Design, Architecture & Digital Festivals, V&A said:
“As the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, the V&A is approaching the climate crisis with creativity and optimism to inspire the next generation. We’re excited to be collaborating with LFA and our neighbours along Exhibition Road to enliven the public realm with ambitious regenerative designs, showcasing the imagination and ingenuity of emerging architects and designers.”
Emily Candler, Executive Director, Exhibition Road Cultural Group, said:
“We are looking forward to welcoming people back to South Kensington this summer. There’s so many great exhibitions, displays and events across our partner organisations and these installations will bring the arts and science out into the street. This project reflects the values and mission of this cultural district: collaboration across the arts and sciences; contributing to debate on key challenges facing the world and creating a great place to visit, work, study and visit. Sustainability is a priority for all our the organistations in South Kensington and it is great to have so many local partners coming together to contribute to this project.”
[this competition has now closed]