Vision drawings to inspire rewilding of urban spaces: disused commercial plots, public squares, streets, green belts and transport routes.
Imagine we take this opportunity to reshape our cities post-pandemic to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and create liveable places that facilitate the homeworking, sustainable travel and connection with nature we have rediscovered in lockdown. Rewild My Street’s new ‘vision drawings’ will help people visulalise how key urban spaces could be transformed, ensuring this ideal is captured and implemented, and that we actively design our ‘new normal’ to benefit people and the planet.
In the near future every city could increase its ‘urban forest’, planting trees and other wildlife habitat in streets, squares and unused green spaces. Disused shops and offices in city centres could be replaced with ‘pocket parks’. Residential streets could become ‘play streets’ where children can discover nature on their doorstep, with most on-street car parking replaced by ‘community parklets’ where residents grow vegetables. The green belts surrounding major conurbations could become ‘wild belts’, where residents can escape the city for a country walk, spotting reintroduced beaver, wild ponies and lynx shaping the rewilded landscape. All these new green spaces could be connected by ‘greenways’ for cyclists and pedestrians, planted with swales to absorb flood water. The verges of the remaining roads catering for shared electric cars and buses could be left to become wildflower meadows attracting pollinators.
Expanding Rewild My Street’s popular online resources at www.rewildmystreet.org, which currently focus on suburban residential streets, to cover public and inner-city spaces will broaden the campaign’s influence and better address access to nature for people without an outdoor space. New drawings would be created, using a similar collage technique to the existing image for suburban residential streets on the website’s homepage. These would show typical existing settings reimagined with greenery and wildlife, based on an inner-city former office/retail plot, a public square, a residential street, a green belt and a transport route. The context would be based on London, but the principles would be applicable to towns and cities throughout the UK and beyond, ensuring scale-ability. The project is strategic, offering a vision to inspire and empower others to take direct action to rewild city spaces.
Rewild My Street is based in London, having launched in response to the UK capital’s establishment as the world’s first National Park City (winning an international design-ideas competition with its first vision drawing). The project’s focus has since developed to towns and cities throughout the UK and beyond, reaching an international audience. The campaign supports the National Park City Foundation’s ambition to create a global network of National Park Cities that are ‘greener, healthier and wilder’.
Rewilding cities will help reverse the alarming trends of biodiversity decline, and loss of urban greenery through densification and sprawl. In tandem, it will improve cities’ resilience to climate change, and promote city dwellers’ health and wellbeing. When, according to the UN, biodiversity has dropped 20% since 1900 and one million species face extinction, greener cities could offer a refuge for some wildlife, having potential to provide substantial habitat. Greening cities has wider environmental benefits, including reducing air pollution, improving amenity value, and mitigating the effects of climate change, such as flood risk and overheating. Moreover, greener, more biodiverse urban spaces boost our own health and wellbeing, offering an antidote to the stresses of modern life.
The drawings will contribute to a bigger cross-disciplinary research project using behaviour-change theory to develop a model intervention strategy for Rewild My Street to improve public uptake and support of urban rewilding. The project is significant and timely in addressing arguably the biggest challenge of our times: the environmental crisis. Applying the discipline of design, particularly in combination with behavioural science, will provide novel insights for tackling the two aspects of this challenge: directly in the case of the ecological decline and indirectly in the case of climate change. The project should be of interest to a wide range of audiences, as it is topical, cross-disciplinary, and relevant in practice, public and academic spheres. The project will benefit from Rewild My Street’s high profile and strong track record of disseminating its work across academic, industry and public outlets. Since launching in summer 2018, Rewild My Street has attracted numerous social media followers and website subscribers, and is growing steadily; it has been recognised by 3 awards, participated in 24 events and featured in 33 media articles. Rewild My Street actively communicates with diverse stakeholders - including policymakers, councils, community groups, developers, designers and students - through its monthly newsletter, online community forum, networking and social media posts.
Repeated lockdowns and living our lives more locally have helped us see the value of nature and green transport for our health and wellbeing. We should seize this opportunity to rethink cities so they enable much greater accessibility to nature for all.
Who will take these actions?
Rewild My Street’s team of academics based at London Metropolitan University, architects and ecologists will take direct action in developing, creating and disseminating the new vision drawings. Funding would enable a graduate to assist with the drawings.
The drawings would inspire indirect action in policymakers, councils, community groups, developers and designers in applying the principles shown.
What are the projected costs?
$1000 for design and production of 5 drawings at $200/drawing.
Consultancy time from transdisciplinary team of architects, ecologists and behavioural scientists to inform drawn proposals.
Design and consultancy February – March 2021;
Produce drawings March - April 2021;
Disseminate drawings via press, Rewild My Street website and social media May - June 2021;
Inclusion in exhibition at COP26 UN Climate Change Summit (TBC) November 2021’
(Wider research project to develop an intervention strategy to influence behaviour change for urban rewilding July 2021 – December 2023)
About the author(s)
Siân Moxon leads Rewild My Street, a design-research project in collaboration with industry partners Eight Associates ecologists and MXN Architecture, with input from behavioural scientists and graduates at London Metropolitan University. Siân is a Senior Lecturer in sustainable design and researcher in urban biodiversity at the university’s School of Art, Architecture and Design. She is an architect, BREEAM accredited professional, author and founder of the Rewild My Street urban-rewilding campaign.