London's proposed new Garden Bridge

London's proposed Garden Bridge (image courtesy Arup)

London’s proposed Garden Bridge (image courtesy Arup)

Let us join the chorus of support for London’s Garden Bridge. The government and the Greater London Authority have promised to pay half the cost – so finding the rest should be a formality. The idea was conceived by the star actress Joanna Lumley in 1998 (she is also a patron of the Druk White Lotus School). But her idea slept for 14 years, until TfL asked for ideas about new ways of crossing the Thames. Thomas Heatherwick, working with Arup (coincidentally the architects for the Druk School), published the above design last summer – and half the funding was promised this month. The Garden Bridge will be 367 metres long and 30 metres wide at its widest point. It will connect a point near Temple station to a point near Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank Centre.
As an idea, it is wonderfully superior to Hungerford Bridge and, of course, to the London Eye. But what all three projects teach us is THE DESIGN PROFESSIONS SHOULD NOT WAIT TO BE ASKED. If designers, especially landscape architects (because of their concern with the public realm), have a good idea then they should draw it and publish it.
Useful links re the Garden Bridge:
TfL consultation on the Garden Bridge
Garden Bridge Trust website (with video)

12 thoughts on “London's proposed new Garden Bridge

  1. jerry

    They should do an assessment first. A public open space needs sunshine and food. From the picture, there are only trees. This is not good.

  2. Adam Hodge

    Perhaps it could be a much more voluptuous High Line type scheme with some open spaces for sitting ,being social and enjoying the occasional rays as well as a balance between green structured planting and some recklessly fun planting with lashings of blossom through the year…a mash of Bodnant laburnum walk,and a riotous splash of roses amongst Hydrangea paniculata’s en masse !!!

    Who do we speak to to engage some ideas with the planners ?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      TfL are inviting comments on the Garden Bridge
      I agree about voluptuousness as a design goal and also about seasonal changes, including bulbs, but the more I think about it the more I think it needs to be, at least, two-level bridge. The lower level would have a bad-weather pedestrian route and lots of food probably on a food-court basis. The upper level should be designed as the best garden in Europe.

  3. Christine

    With a bit of ‘tweeking’ the design could become a garden island in the middle of the Thames with a pedestrian/cycle connection which may be lightly planted…[ ]

    The island could have two levels and hence an opportunity for a Hanging Garden! Melbourne has used the upper and lower levels of the Yarra River very well. [ ] and [ ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Very useful precedents thank you. They should collect ideas from around the world before fixing the design for London’s garden bridge. Although I have suggested a commercial layer for the structure there is also a good case for keeping it commerce-free. The case would be that too much of the world is materialistic and that just as our predecessors built cathedrals, we should build spiritual structures. It is amazing that with so much greater resources we have made nothing as good as the medieval cathedrals. Barcelona is still working on La Sagrada Familia but I fear it will be more of a tourist experience than a spiritual experience.

  4. Christine

    Gaudi is in the process of being canonized largely due to his contribution in the design of the cathedral [ ] I am not sure, but he may be the first architect to be declared a Saint? I am wondering where this accolade fits in the relation to the Pritzker Prize?

    Do you know when the last cathedral was commissioned in London or whether there has been any extensions planned?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I believe a miracle is an absolute requirement for sainthood. Maybe his design would count as a miracle in its own right. If not, the fact that it is being completed without any of his drawings could surely count. St Gaudie? That would be way, way above the Pritzker Prize.
      In London I guess the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Westminster was the last to be completed.
      Cathedrals were not built with government money. I believe the funds came from the churches and from private gifts. We need to find some public projects people would support with equal generosity.

  5. Christine

    The Sydney Opera House completion was funded by public lottery. I am supposing this is not quite the same a direct contributions?

    Perhaps community buildings are still funded in this way? Apparently Andrew Carnegie funded public libraries. [ ] I am supposing that philanthropic contributions from a single donor is not quite the same as a small community making numerous small donations?

    I am wondering what sort of project would inspire perhaps a city like London to donate to its realization via ‘crowd’ funding? [ ] Do you think they would finance the Garden Bridge this way? Maybe if 1) the design was refined with much public comment and involvement or 2) the design community funded after an open ideas competition funding a project this may be possible?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The UK learned from Australia and we have a lot of projects funded from lottery money. Some see this as a way of transferring money from the poor (the largest buyers of tickets) to the rich (the main beneficiaries of cultural projects). Others see it as a way reducing saving the taxes which would otherwise be spent on public projects. Others, again, see it as a way in which do-gooders can sit on committees and get funds for their pet projects. I guess all the cynics have some truth on their side and would be happier with direct public subscription. It seems a swindle to encourage gambling (the lottery gets free coverage on the BBC) as a means of supporting ‘higher’ (ie non-materialistic) causes. I think that if the BBC gave prime air time to cathedral-like projects it might well be possible to raise funds for garden bridges. The Thames could have lots of them!

  6. Reshma

    Interesting ideas….the structural part could be funded by Govt. /public or private organisations….
    Planting and maintenance could be with local gardeners funded by yearly contributions from public…there could be prize… an incentive…


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