Asif Khan designs tiny forests for London to bring calm to city's streets

by Kim Megson | 12 Sep 2016
We use plants as a tool to assert our personal space at its boundary with public space
– Asif Khan

Architect Asif Khan is bringing tiny forests to the streets of London to address the need for calming “third places” in urban environments.

The architect has partnered with car manufacturer MINI for the project, called MINI Living, as part of the London Design Festival, which will run from 17-25 September.

“Given the trend of urban densification we need to tap urban potentials in creative ways,” said Oke Hauser, creative lead of MINI Living. “Given the amount of left-over public space we need to ask: how can we activate this spatial innercity potential and turn it into contributing functions for the urban community?”

Three underused public spaces in Shoreditch have been selected to host Khan’s forest installations – with each mini environment populated by plants which visitors can take home during the festival. Horticulturalist Jin Ahn of the Conservatory Archives in Hackney has curated the plant life on show.

Each site is designed slightly differently. One next to Shoreditch Fire Station will have a long communal table for socialising, one on Charles Square will have stepped seating to provide a quiet place to work and one on the corner of Old Street features an elevated room offering passers-by a secluded green room in the city.

Festival visitors will be encouraged to use the installations as extensions of their private space by taking plants home, growing them in their own homes and sharing their plant’s progress on social media.

“There is a Japanese phrase ‘shinrin yoku’, which literally means ‘forest bathing’,” said Khan. “ It means every sense switches to absorb the forest atmosphere, what you hear, what you smell, even the feeling underfoot. At another scale we use plants as a tool to assert our personal space at its boundary with public space, whether on our desk at the office or at the perimeter of our home.

“The project brings these two ideas together for visitors to experience new sensations within the city.”

Asif Khan  MINI Living  London Design Festival  London  architecture 
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Architect Asif Khan is bringing tiny forests to the streets of London to address the need for calming “third places” in urban environments. The architect has partnered with car manufacturer MINI for the project, called MINI Living, as part of the London Design Festival, which will run from 17-25 September. “Given the trend of urban densification we need to tap urban potentials in creative ways,” said Oke Hauser, creative lead
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One of the forests will have a long communal table for friends to sit and catch up / MINI Living
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