Low Line, Southwark

Greengage was part of the team led by PDP London that won an international design competition to create a green strategy for the Low Line project in Southwark. We are helping to design and curate the space so that the Low Line becomes an internationally acclaimed scheme that incorporates biodiversity, climate resilience into the heart of the project, not only providing opportunities for ecology but greater green spaces that get people walking, and cycling more; connecting communities and addressing high levels of isolation, inactivity and loneliness.

The Low Line is a new walking destination for London along the length of the mighty Victorian rail viaducts spanning Bankside, London Bridge and Bermondsey. It connects diverse neighbourhoods and communities in south London, linking existing and new hubs of creativity, entertainment, and industry along its course. The Low Line celebrates the heritage of the railway arches which have been a part of the area for over 150 years, shaping places of interest along the way and unlocking their potential.

The first new sections of the Low Line opened at Old Union Yard Arches and Flat Iron Square and complement established Low Line hubs located at Borough Market, Maltby Street Market, and Spa Terminus. These openings have provided enhanced access, connectivity, and public spaces, as well as improved economic prosperity through repurposing underused or empty arches.

The Low Line was coined by Southwark resident David Stephens. The concept has developed through a group of initial partners including Better Bankside, Blue Bermondsey, Borough Market, Team London Bridge, The Arch Company, and Southwark Council, who are steering the initial scoping, planning and communication of the project.

Last year, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) challenged architects, artists, engineers, ecologists and designers to come up with London’s answer to the Manhattan High Line: the elevated park that snakes through New York City along an abandoned railroad. The idea was to similarly take advantage of disused rail infrastructure this side of the pond — incorporating the Victorian viaducts of Bankside, London Bridge, and Bermondsey into a new ecological walking destination. And now we get to see what that will look like.

Named ‘Low Line Commons’, the winning proposal puts both nature and the local community at the heart of the project. It’s the brainchild of PDP London architects, who worked with Macfarlane and Associates Landscape Architects, Greengage sustainability consultants and Studio 4215 environment consultants to include tons of green infrastructure — from community gardens to wildlife habitats.

The Low Line Commons also proposes a sustainable drainage system that uses ecological engineering methods like bioswale planting and street-level rain gardens to avoid surface flooding and store water.

The winner was selected by an evaluation panel comprised of Lund Trust co-founder Lisbet Rousing; RIBA adviser Graham Morrios; Adam White, the president of the Landscape Institute; and Donald Hyslop, the Chair of Better Bankside BID and Low Line Steering Group.

A £1m grant from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and a further £1m of investment from Low Line project partners enable will enable its visionaries to work in greater detail and start to deliver the next phases of the project. These will be implemented incrementally as different pots of funding become available and new partnership opportunities arise.