LAHP Open Studentship Competition 2024-25 

Practice-led Research – Maurizio Mucciola

Over the past seven years, since establishing Architects in East London I have been dedicated to researching and designing community gardens and urban rewilding projects. This practice has been involved in both real-life and speculative projects, which have been instrumental in evaluating the impact of designing green spaces on urban landscapes and communities. As a result of this experience, I have developed a substantial body of work in this field, which is directly linked to the proposed PhD research.

The proposed practice-led research will benefit from my experience in designing community gardens and urban rewilding projects. My practice experience will also inform and guide the research process, allowing me to incorporate real-world design challenges into the theoretical framework. Through this research, I hope to contribute to the growing body of knowledge on sustainable urban design and to develop practical solutions that can be implemented in different urban contexts. 


01. The Garden of Earthly Delights
Hackney, London, 2019 – 2020 Architects
Team: Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Maurizio Mucciola
Program: Local community project of wildlife gardening

They say, ‘all of life’s problems can be solved in a garden’. In spring 2019, a group of XR activists got together to reimagine a derelict space in Hackney Central, London. The garden sprang up within a few weeks, with the help of activists, artists, growers, makers from the surrounding area using only reclaimed materials. The founding principle was to transform unused urban sites into green community spaces. Over the year, and through the involvement of the local community, the group grew in size and ideas. Our approach to wellbeing became clearer and deeply connected to access for all to nature and each other.

02. East London Waterworks Park
Hackney, London, 2020

Preliminary Design: Architects
Team: Maurizio Mucciola, Maria-Chiara Piccinelli,
Program: Wild Swimming park

The East London Waterworks Park is an idea conceived by local people. At its heart is a community group that wants to acquire and transform the 5.68-hectare ex-Thames Water Depot on Lea Bridge Road in Waltham Forest into a brownfield rainforest offering people the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. Activities, including wild swimming in Victorian filter beds and conservation volunteering, will improve physical and mental health, increase biodiversity and encourage visitors to stay and explore.


03. River Lea Wild Bee Garden
Hackney, London, 2019 Architects
Team: Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Maurizio Mucciola
Client: Plastic Free Hackney
Supported by: Semble, as part of the Cif Hello Beautiful Neighbourhood project
Program: Local community project of wildlife gardening

River Lea Wild Bee Garden is a community project run by Plastic Free Hackney is all about inspiring people to try out simple wildlife gardening along the River Lea sidewalk, connecting the community and providing the resources wildlife needs to thrive.
The border has distinct planting areas and takes people on a wildlife gardening journey with opportunities for people to engage with the space and feel inspired to implement these ideas at home or in their community.

A community garden can bring a wide range of benefits – from connecting people to increasing wildlife in the built environment, gardening and the joy that outdoor spaces provide positive ways to relieve stress.
This project will soon be inspiring even more people to try wildlife gardening.

04. Homerton University Hospital, NHS Trust
Hackney, London, 2020 Architects
Team: Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Maurizio Mucciola, Martina Mellogno
Program: Local community project for accessible planters, Horticultural Therapy Design

Gardening has been used for therapeutic purposes for patients with physical and mental challenges for centuries. The idea of considering gardens as a part of the hospital is ancient. Raised beds facilitate gardening for patients in wheelchairs and provide high-quality soil for plant growth. Patients have greater control over the working area, which increases self-esteem and possibly gives better cultivation results. Raised beds also allow patients to work standing up, prolonging the time they can spend gardening.


05. Marvin Street Park
Hackney, London, 2020 Architects
Team: Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Maurizio Mucciola, Martin De Pablo Esteban
Program: Rewilding – street park

A new pocket park for central Hackney
Marvin Street is a short cul-de-sac running between Sylvester Road and Graham Road. The street provides pedestrian access from the south to the bus stop and points beyond, including the proposed new entrance to Hackney Central Station; and from the north to Hackney Service Centre and Town Hall, and to the residential streets as far as London Fields. The street itself is accessed directly from Graham Mansions and provides delivery access, by way of a rear gate, to the convenience store on the corner of Graham Road and Marvin Street.

We would like to see Marvin Street converted into a small park or grove which would be integrated into the bus stop. The creation of a place where people might be drawn to pause, a place which would be useful, interesting, beautiful and an environmental enhancement of the neighbourhood. Just as we are hoping that the new Overground station entrance might be London’s greenest, we think this could provide a template for new form of bus stop.

06. Rewilding Highbury
Islington, London, UK 2022 – ongoing

Rewild My Street + Architects
Team: Maurizio Mucciola, Sian Moxon

Reclaiming a street through Rewilding

This project in collaboration with Rewild My Street / Sian Moxon
is a meanwhile project to rewilding a street at Highbury Crescent currently pedestrianized.
The project is for Islington Council and currently ongoing.


07. Woodland RA
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2019 Architects
Team: Maurizio Mucciola, Maria-Chiara Piccinelli
Event: RA Lates, Deep Earth
Function: Indoor Temporary Forest

We need to re-articulate the relationship between humans, nature and technologies.
Architecture is about creating new relationships.
We must imagine a new way of inhabiting architecture that is open to new forms of coexistence between human and nature.
The Woodland RA installation is an attempt to bring Nature inside the Royal Academy of Arts, inviting visitors to re-discover a deeper and more intimate relation with the natural realm.
We have created an indoor temporary forest by installing 24 Nordmann Fir (Abies Nordmanniana) in the central saloon of the John Madejski Fine Rooms.
The sustainably sourced trees have been donated to Hackney City Council, who will plant them in their public parks and gardens as a small contribution to London green regeneration.

08. Nature & Wellbeing Centre
Sevenoaks, 2017 – competition Architects
Team: Maurizio Mucciola, Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Daria A. Moussavi, Felix Varaschini
Program: Visitor Centre, Ancillary Building

The proposal for the new Visitor Centre building aims to integrate with the surrounding natural environment in two ways. Firstly, by opening itself towards the lake and nature through an outdoor Lake Terrace and studio. Secondly, by designing interstitial spaces to encourage small animals and natural growth on the roof. The building is a simple triangular timber structure that elegantly creates a shelter for the Visitor Centre’s required functions.


Case Studies

My research will analyse case studies of projects that aim to improve biodiversity in cities for the benefit of all species, including examples from the UK and internationally.

I will investigate the impact of these projects on social cohesion and civil engagement and evaluate their successes or failures.

The research will go beyond an anthropocentric approach and will consider how these projects leave space for open-ended outcomes and the parts of the nonhuman and human worlds we don’t yet understand.

The goal is to suggest ways to transform our cities into more sustainable, biodiverse, healthier, and happier places, both for humans and other living beings.


09. Phytology / Bethnal Green Nature Reserve

The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve is a cultural institute focused on ecological research and community learning in the heart of East London.

We host an annual residency for researchers working across the humanities, architecture and science. Our public programme actively engages with the environmental and social complexities of the surrounding urban landscape.

This space is a WW2 bomb-site that has been cared for since 1977 by local residents, volunteers, staff, trustees and its non-human inhabitants. The Nature Reserve has a delicate and complex ecosystem of plants, bats, birds, trees, soil, fungi, amphibians, insects, invertebrates and mammals (including people). We collectively want this space to exist and nurture a diverse urban ecosystem for many years to come.

Text and image extracted from their website

10. SUGi project

SUGi is a non-profit organisation developing urban rewilding projects in cities around the world
they do projects worldwide adoptiong the Miyawaki Method.
The Miyawaki Method of afforestation allows for the rapid creation of urban pockets of forest.
Quick to establish and virtually maintenance free, the 100% natural and organic methods create a haven for urban biodiversity.
Proven in Japan and around the world, the Miyawaki method has a 85% success rate for tree survival, even in testing environments.
Text and image extracted from their website