UCL Grand Challenges


Sow / Seed / Shift

Sow / Seed / Shift explores emerging innovations in biochemical engineering on an active meanwhile site through engagement with community groups.

Sow seed shift project image

1 September 2022


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2022-23
Amount awarded: £7,500


  • Kirsty Badenoch, Bartlett School of Architecture, The Bartlett
  • Dr Brenda Parker, Biochemical Engineering Department, Engineering Sciences

Sow / Seed / Shift or 'Stockpile Garden' explores emerging innovations in biochemical engineering on an active meanwhile site through engagement with community groups.  
The site-based research project investigates the human and ecological health benefits of remediating meanwhile sites, and the significance of ‘temporary’ landscapes as a largely unaddressed contributor to London’s green infrastructural fabric.  
The funded activities include research groundwork (lab-based and site-based); a number of workshops including soil sampling and a botany walk; construction of the temporary garden and a public launch. 

The garden is expected to stay in its location for up to six years. During this time, both the research team, developer and local community groups intend to use and conduct activities in the space. Application for further funding to expand the project, and engage with further collaborators is expected. 

The project continues to engage with two local community garden groups (Barking Food Forest and Ripple Nature Reserve) and contributed to the Emerge East Festival in September, which was well-attended by local people as well as visitors from further afield.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to bring ecological conversation into the construction industry, and invite the construction team to see their workplace in a very different way. The developer we have been collaborating with has been found to be a key audience for the project, with the physical power to implement future change at a site-scale. They have been highly supportive and proud of the project, despite the scale of ambition and complexity of it”.

More about the project can be found on Periscope (external collaborator) here. The project has benefitted Periscope through applying their material research into soil, soil health and clay making, and applying it at an urban scale. 

Stockpile Garden construction, workshops and public events (Image credits: Kirsty Badenoch)

Sow Seed Shift - Project image 1
Sow Seed Shift - Project image 2

Impacts and Outputs

  • Dissemination report (expected December 2023) 

  • Long-term collaboration between academic partners, designers, developers, and local community groups 

  • Public outreach: temporary garden and event space