Greening Nicolson Street

Created by Chris Pollard and Alexandra Borghino, re-imagines a green future for Edinburgh’s most polluted street – Nicolson Street. Find out exactly how trees benefit our health and wellbeing in the artwork and why in our interview with Alexandra and Chris below:

Alexandra Borghino

Website Instagram

Job: Children’s Illustrator
Location: Edinburgh
Style: Nature and wildlife inspire me the most! Most of my work is digital and I use traditional media like acrylic, gouache and pencils for mixed media projects.

Q:  How did you come up with the idea for this artwork?
A: I am a curious person and I always do lots of research prior to the creative process. Through this project, I found out that Nicholson street was one of the most polluted streets in Scotland! Obviously, this isn’t ideal so we developed our idea from there and focussed on how we could improve the situation by adding community gardens, green roofs and walls, and replacing the traffic with people walking and cycling. Through the artwork, I wanted to take you on a colourful journey towards a greener and happier Edinburgh!

Q: There are so many incredible details in this piece, what did you learn from the research process and discussion with Chris that you included in the final work?
A: From the beginning, I genuinely learnt a lot more about the city itself, the level of pollution in certain areas, and the different solutions that can help improve the air quality as much as the quality of life. My favourite part was getting to illustrate all the different Scottish plants and tree species that can be used for specific purposes. We wanted to show how we could use the space efficiently by only choosing the plant and tree species that work best for these purposes.

Current Work:

  • All my work is accessible via my website or instagram – keep your eyes peeled for my up-coming picture book! Most of my work is related to nature and wildlife but I also do family portraits, booklet illustrations and children’s workshops where we make puppets of Scottish animals.
  • For the Edinburgh locals, you can also spot my work in some of the coffee shops in the city centre!


Chris Pollard

Twitter | Forest Research |  Social & Economic Research Group

Job: Social Scientist
Organisation: Forest Research
Location: Edinburgh

Bio: My work looks to better understand the social aspects of various plant and tree policy questions in the UK and beyond. This includes measuring cultural ecosystem services and investigating the human dimensions of plant biosecurity.

Q: Your artwork depicts a low pollution, green city with communities of people living alongside plants and trees. What are the main benefits of this?
The benefits are multiple – air pollution is reduced, carbon sequestered in the plants and trees, people gain mental and physical health benefits from green spaces where they live and work, and communities are strengthened as people work together to nurture and care for those green spaces around them. Including everyone in green endeavours is totally the way forward as it means the outcomes are more likely to be maintained and valued!

Q: Alexandra has brilliantly illustrated a range of different plant and tree species now in Nicholson Street, can you explain the thought process behind their inclusion?
A: Many of the tree species in the artwork were chosen to maximise the removal of pollutants from the air. Species such as silver birch have been shown to be really good at capturing harmful molecules, due to hairs on their leaves. Equally though, I think it is Alexandra’s representation of nature in the day-to-day life of Edinburgh communities which is the hopeful solution to our environmental problem behaviours.

Current Work:

  • We have recently completed work on three projects for the Plant Health Centre, looking at the different large-scale plant pest and disease risks posed to Scotland from three sources: non-traditional and online retail sales of plants; planting for landscaping and infrastructure projects; and tree planting for the environment. You can read more about our findings and recommendations here.


Future Green Spaces Virtual Exhibition

You can check out the final masterpiece and all the other brilliant artworks via our virtual gallery overlooking Edinburgh’s iconic Arthur’s Seat, You can the exhibition and all other BES online events (from an ecology-themed comedy night and draw-alongs to insect decline debates) on the BES Edinburgh Science Festival event hub here.