London's answer to NY's High Line - a subterranean Low Line for mushrooms, people

A fungi farm and pedestrian walkway could sprout in an old underground rail line. Turn left at the shiitakes, straight on until you hit the morels.

Turn left at the shiitakes, straight on until you hit the morels. London's proposed mushroom tunnel.


New York went high. London's going low.

No, this isn't some card game or betting scheme.

I'm talking about urban regeneration - or more specifically, how to revive a run down public space. As anyone who is remotely interested in this sort of thing knows, New York has won considerable praise for its "High Line" -- a disused elevated railway track in lower Manhattan that has transformed from eyesore into a green park.

London Mayor Boris Johnson was so impressed that he helped run a competition seeking London's answer. The contest, called "A High Line for London," rounded up over 170 design ideas.

Move over straphangers, here come the lap hangers. This 'swim to work' scheme won runner-up. You can read about it via the link below in the story.

The winner? Well look out below! The first place finisher, Fletcher Priest Architects, has proposed turning a disused section of an old underground mail rail track into a mushroom farm and pedestrian walkway below Oxford Street, one of London's busiest shopping thoroughfares.

Fletcher Priest's website says that Pop Down, as it's called:

"Seeks to capitalise on a forgotten network of tunnels under London, an urban experience where visitors can embark on an expedition underground, entering and exiting the tunnels from street level. The tunnels provide the ideal environment for an urban mushroom farm with the introduction of daylight through a series of sculptural glass-fibre ‘mushrooms’ at street level. These will highlight the route of the tunnel above ground and will convey daylight to the tunnels below through punctures along their length."

And yes, the mushrooms could well end up on dinner plates, as new "Funghi" theme restaurants and cafes along route at street level would make use of them in the vision of London-based Fletcher Priest.

As the website notes, the tunnel, "will be an underground oasis for mosses, lichen and funghi, where the mycelium and basidiomycete are king." All hail His Majesty the Mushroom!

The competition was organized by the mayor, London's Landscape Institute, and the Garden Musuem. As I wrote last week, the runner-up, YN Studio, wants to turn an old canal into commuter swimming lanes.

Both projects are proposals, and may never see the light (or dark) of day.

No word on whether the funghi passage would include a Carlos Castenada cavern.

Photo: Tunnel from Fletcher Priest Architects website. "Lap hangers" from YN Studio website.

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