The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and the V&A have launched a competition to find and fund a series of innovative installations which support biodiversity along London’s Exhibition Road.
Located in South Kensington, Exhibition Road is home to the V&A, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and several other academic institutions like Imperial College London.
The competition, run in collaboration with local organisation Discover South Kensington, aims to provide a welcoming environment as visitors return to the area following the gradual lifting on pandemic-related restrictions.
“Reclaiming space for nature amidst the bustle of the capital”
As the LFA points out, this is not the first time the festival has collaborated with Exhibition Road. In 2008, the road was closed to traffic for the first time in its history to host a series of public events focused on the improvement of the public realm.
This time around, the festival has put out an open call to architects, landscape architects, artists and designers, to submit proposals that explore how “plants, greenery and biodiversity” can be creatively embedded into the street.
The LFA describes the initiative as “reclaiming space for nature amidst the bustle of the capital”.
Three locations, three briefs, three winners
Three winning teams will be chosen to deliver their designs in time for the festival in the summer. A sum of £20,000 will be awarded to each, which includes a design fee of £3,000.
Winning teams will be partnered with the V&A, Goethe Institute or Science Museum to develop a fully costed and feasible design for their installation. Each institution has set a slightly different brief.
The V&A is looking for a green installation which “engages all” in how regenerative design and biodiversity can have a meaningful impact on the public realm. Meanwhile the Science Museum is seeking a project which will “ignite the curiosity” of visitors with a celebration of plants with medicinal properties, in connection with its Medicine: The Wellcome galleries exhibition.
The Goethe Institute is looking for a design which can help bring indigenous wildflowers to Exhibition Road – this will form a twin project with the Kultursymposium Weimar, which will also take place this summer in Germany.
A “message of care to nature”
While the three briefs all ask for something slightly different, there are some common underlying expectations for proposed designs. The primary focus of each installation should be sustainability, the LFA says. “Designers should be conscious of the interventions’ environmental impact from cradle to grave,” it says.
This will include elements like maximising the use of recycled materials and minimising waste where possible, and also considering the afterlife and legacy of the designs. As part of the project, Discover South Kensington and the LFA will work with designers to “re-site” installations once the event has finished.
In terms of starting points, the LFA points to its 2021 theme of care – it hopes prospective designers of the installations look to promote a “message of care for nature”, while also providing “sensory elements that surprise and delight”.
Interested applicants can find out more about the competition via the LFA website. Applications close on 10 May 2021.