Toby Prest

The Woodland Street Manifesto

Toby Prest's design research investigates how London's street trees can become a sustainable source of timber, empowering local communities.

The Street Condition / The project suggests London's pedestrianisation, turning streets into working forests with a cycle of planting, growing and felling. It facilitates forestry activities, material storage, markets and space for social and cultural interactions.

The project explores the role of trees in London

The project explores the role of trees in London, critiquing current growth plans for transforming them into a productive urban forestry in ecological and material terms.

The provision of street trees varies significantly among London boroughs. By primarily focusing on planting more trees, key London policies fail to learn from past approaches to urban trees and the field of forestry and tree science. Both emphasise the need for site-specific solutions to achieve sustainable and equitable change.
Residents of Tower Hamlets and other areas with low canopy cover resist greening due to gentrification concerns. Toby Prest offers a new narrative that bridges climate activists, long-term residents and the government. It integrates new trees into London’s cultural fabric and utilises timber as a locally owned material resource, enabling residents to develop their own properties and communities. This approach mitigates carbon emissions associated with the processing and transportation of standard building elements.

The project empowers local communities and speculatively redefines our approach to extending and adapting the London vernacular.

Reseeding Tower Hamlets / Three key planting strategies are established: ecological, production and pioneer. The ecological strategy creates an old-growth forest, the production strategy grows local timber and the pioneer strategy forms bespoke elements with willow.

The Inner-City Woodland Vernacular / The gnarled, imperfect forms that grow throughout East London residents' lives become the roots of a new cultural identity and London vernacular.

The Heart of the Timber / A Productive Forestry / By utilising digital tools such as CNC and CT scanning, the project uncovers the optimised heart. It demonstrates how structurally viable and aesthetically appealing results can be achieved using previously undesirable timber. Three timber stock layers are identified, enabling versatile and holistic production. Four strategies are conceived to utilise every part of the wood, forming the basis for a new locally sourced urban vernacular.


Name Toby Prest (he/him)
Role Student
Deparment The Bartlett School of Architecture


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