Time itself does not matter in the presence of the lost river.
– Peter Ackroyd, London Under
I submitted this project to the Landscape Institute for their High Line for London competition. I didn’t win, but my entry was shown at the Institute’s exhibition in October last year. Many entries, like mine, were local to their area, and could one day perhaps be materialised into real world projects with the help of local councils. There are talks within the Institute of incorporating all the entries into an online database with an interactive map, much like the London Rivers Action Plan map. I very much hope this goes ahead, because the variety of ideas that the competition generated was truly inspiring, and they deserve to be kept for future reference.
The text below was part of my submission (shortened slightly to go on the actual image to meet the competition’s 250 words limit). I’m adding links to the websites I have come across during my research.
The river Moselle is one of the subterranean rivers of London, a tributary of river Lea, flowing through the borough of Haringey. It holds an enduring interest to the residents of the borough – local artists paint it, local history buffs map it, urban explorers climb into the tunnels in which it is encased to take photographs. Although Moselle is still very much alive, most of it is buried, with the memory of it present in the borough in the form of street names and green spaces.
This study imagines how the river could be restored and woven into the fabric of everyday life of Haringey by using nearby underground stations as focal points. Entrances to Highgate, Turnpike Lane and Wood Green stations are transformed into mini-museums displaying information about flora and fauna of the river and history of Haringey. Moselle is restored around these locations, as well as around the Haringey railway stations, creating new green spaces that help extend the influence of the river further into the borough. Existing parks and public spaces are strengthened through restoring the river within them (as is already the case at Lordship Recreation Ground and Coombes Croft library). Local amenities complement Moselle’s natural surroundings, with themed cafes, bars, and even fishing and rowboat hire. Haringey becomes a land where the river has environmental, civic and community significance.
My proposal focuses on Highgate station, next to which one of Moselle’s springs originates. The old station is redeveloped into Moselle Museum and restaurant, with a terrace dining area arranged around the old railway tracks. A glass walkway leads into the underground station, with museum displays on one side and a view to the river on the other. A new lift can also take the visitors directly from the underground station to the restaurant and museum above.
Apart from the websites linked above (some of which are kind of obvious), I have tapped into a wealth of material pertaining to London’s lost rivers. Of these, notably there are two books, the concise and informative London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling, and the fabulous, moody London Under by Peter Ackroyd. I also attended a talk at New London Architecture called Restoring London’s Rivers. At the talk, I was impressed by the complexity and dedication of the many different teams and parties involved in bringing buried rivers back to life, from Atkins’ Lea Valley and its eel habitat for the Olympic Park to the wildly eccentric and wonderful Tyburn Angling Society and its plans to turn Berkeley Square into a lake.
I’ve been told that my project of restoring Moselle and the Highgate station also veers off towards the eccentric, but honestly I don’t see why. My inspiration for it actually came from visiting Athens a couple of years ago and wandering around its famous Monastiraki underground station, with its buried ancient settlement and a brook, all neatly cleaned up and put on display for passengers and tourists. London, like Athens, is a city of many layers and many histories – why can’t these be celebrated as part of the iconic London Underground?