Living green bridges are vernacular landscape biotecture

Living bridges? I found a nineteenth century drawing of living green bridge in 2009 and was delighted to find that they still exist. We can see it as vernacular landscape biotecture (using the word biotecture as a contraction of biological archiecture). The above example of a living root bridge is near Mawlynnong in the Khasi hills, in the Indian State of Meghalaya. Before you rush out any bridge construction detail based on this photograph please remember that ‘Meghalaya’y means The Abode of Clouds. Assam is to the north and Bangladesh on the south. A village near Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills is the wettest place on earth with an annual rainfall of just under 12000mm (ie 24 times London’s average annual rainfall of 500mm). One could attempt a living bridge with willows in England, but I think it would turn into a dam, because the branches would root into the water.
Image courtesy Seema KK.

12 thoughts on “Living green bridges are vernacular landscape biotecture

  1. Christine

    This photograph is a view of the castle in Ljubljana from the tree bridges.

    Worth a look… [,pp:2698206,46.048663,14.508326&ll=46.048663,14.508326&z=10&ei=q3R0Td_NBYymugP-quS9AQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=photo-link&cd=2&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q8wEoATAA ]

    …and a walk around…[,pp:2698206,46.048663,14.508326&ll=46.048663,14.508326&z=10&ei=q3R0Td_NBYymugP-quS9AQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=photo-link&cd=2&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q8wEoATAA ]

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    I would like to see a tree-planted bridge over the Thames in London, preferably without an motor-powered vehicles. It should be a place to sip tea and gulp down the views from plein air seats, glazed outdoor seats and glazed indoor seats, so that the views can be enjoyed in ever type of weather. The best place for such a bridge would probably be above one of the rail crossings.

  3. Christine

    Yes the history of tree-bridges in the UK is a fascinating and illusive topic. [ ]

    Your suggestion for a tree-planted bridge is a great one.

    [ ] Perhaps the Hungerford Bridge might be a good candidate for such an intervention? An excellent design might address some of the criticisms leveled at the Golden Jubilee Footbridges and also connect to the pedestrian traffic they carry…[ ]

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    I have seen a number of very good sketch designs for a green bridge above Hungerford Bridge. The planning attraction is that it would connect Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station to the Arts Centre on the South Bank. I think it should also be a Sacred Wood with a calm walk under the trees and strips of people-free habitat space on both margins – with occasional cross-paths to viewing platforms. Or maybe the Sacred Wood section should be the ‘central reservation’. I would have it as an area from which litter can be collected with mechanical picks etc but to which there was no human access at any time for any reason. It would be a Skywood.

  5. Christine

    Given the history of the Hungerford bridge and its context within the Thames the designers would need to be very astute with their strategy.
    [ ]

    To give a bit of perspective to the subject…[ ]

    Hmmm, it seems bridge designers (engineers) are greater fans of landscape architects than they are architects, so that fact at least would seem to bode well for more green bridges![ ]

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    They missed an opportunity when they built they pedestrian crossings beside Hungerford Bridge. They are just that:crossings. They have no plants and no places to sit and enjoy the views. Disappointing lack of imagination.

  7. Christine

    Blog comments on the footbridges from the public all seem to be positive, ie. an improvement on the status quo. But perhaps you are right, to design the world’s most amazing green footbridges takes more than a little imagination…

    It is interesting to look at lists which have been compiled:

    1) [ ]
    2) [ ]
    3) [,1 ]
    and perhaps more than just structural gymnastics. [ ]
    4) [ ]

    And a few more bridges albeit wrongly attributed…[ ]

    So there is definitely a place out there waiting for an inspired green bridge!

  8. Whitney Hedges

    When I saw these strangler Fig bridges on the recent T.V. series Human planet. I loved them of course (who wouldn’t). and yes I did think of sculpting a Bridge out of Salix a bit like a Patrick Dougherty style construction ( ) I’m not sure why they would necessarily make a dam. Perhaps we could incorporate those lovely japanese garden bridges which are made from wood and covered with moss. This would never work were foot traffic was really high but if it were done well it could be sublime I think. ( ( (

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    The moss briges are wonderful but would only work in a deep wet forest.
    I have planted willows beside a small stream and seen them form a dense mass of fibrous roots. I guess it is a question of scale: if there was a lot of water and the bridge was at a good height then it could work with willows. Please try!


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