Architecture: Garden Bridge, London

Architecture: Garden Bridge, London

London architecture is about to get truly exciting. The Garden Bridge, billed as London’s answer to New York’s High Line, got approved by Westminster City Council by 3:1 last night.

At a cost of £175million, there is no question that the bridge is an expensive development, which is partly funded by the taxpayer (£30m from Govt and £30m from TfL) with the rest coming from private donors. The initial idea was ‘conceived’ by the British actress Joanna Lumley in 1998 and the design has been created by Thomas Heatherwick, working with Arup.

The Garden Bridge Trust was set up in 2013 to oversee and manage the project which is planned to feature over 270 trees, planted in gardens across the bridge and will be 367 metres long and 30 metres across at the widest point.

The bridge is backed by Lambeth Council planning authority which approved the planning application last month, and also the Mayor of London, but it has also been heavily criticised and objected to by large numbers of the public.

According to the Guardian, it’s a terrible idea. Rowan Moore commented:

“It has also been called “a new public park space”, but last week it emerged that groups larger than eight will have to notify their intention to enter the bridge in advance, that there will be no public right of way across it, that it will close at midnight and that it will be taken over 12 times a year by money-earning events. Picnics are prohibited, as is anything resembling a political protest. Cycling is impossible and facilities for bike parking are limited. No additional lavatories are planned for the expected 7.1 million visitors a year. It requires the destruction of 30 mature trees and of existing green space. “Thousands of local residents,” according to objectors, “will have their lives blighted.”

Spanning from Temple tube station to the South Bank, just outside the ITV studios, the bridge will be pedestrian only and as Moore said, it is expected to attract around seven million visitors each year.

Questions being asked  by those who do not support the bridge include: why is TfL contributing £30m to the project when this money could be better spent on upgrading other transport and infrastructure. Well, according to the Mayor, the bridge will create more opportunities for walking in London, which will have knock on benefits for health for both local residents and visitors alike; it will reduce traffic and ease public transport use, especially the tube lines which cross the river. He also believes it will improve economic development on both sides of the Thames.

Opponents also fear the bridge will ruin the gorgeous riverscape, however English Heritage says the low slung design will not harm the scape, which includes the famous St Paul’s, Somerset House down to the financial districts and the more modern buildings like the Gherkin and the Shard, but is likely to enhance it.

The bridge has been designed for people to relax and use as a destination rather than a crossing point, which means that it will have a capacity of 2,500 people and with them, good, old-fashioned English queues at peak times. It is easy to assume it will therefore need wardens to manage these queues, thus creating jobs, and whilst the busiest periods are estimated to be at the weekends and between 5-6pm on weekdays, what better place to end up on a sunny London day, after work?

The Trust plans to raise funds for the costs for maintenance (about £500k) by hosting 10 corporate events a year, held on the bridge, and another £500k from renting parts of the bridge out to businesses, presumably for services for tourists and users, at either end of the bridge from May- Sept.

The debates on whether this is a waste of money or, the best thing since the South Bank was first extended and pedestrianised for the Festival of Britain in 1951, will rage on. Regardless, the bridge is expected to be finished and open by 2018.

photo credit: Standard

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