Back on the Bridge

This week a landmark project that I have been following for over two years came one step closer to becoming reality. So close in fact that work on The Garden Bridge over the London’s River Thames could commence as early as this summer. Much has been written about The Garden Bridge during the intervening months and I have attempted to digest most of it. There are broadly two schools of thought: that which considers the project an excessive, politically motivated, unnecessary vanity project and that which applauds its vision, ambition and future contribution to the city’s urban landscape.

Try as I may to take a balanced view, I have very little time for the naysayers. They make the point that a crossing at this point in the Thames isn’t strictly needed, that established trees will be removed to enable its construction, that the selection process for the bridge’s designers was improper, and that the money, much of which has been donated by private individuals and businesses, might be put to better use elsewhere in the city. I agree and sympathise with each of these challenges to an extent, but to allow these to de-rail what could be one of this century’s greatest contributions to London’s architectural and landscape heritage would be very wrong indeed. It will be interesting to note how many of these bah-humbug types remain in the ‘against’ camp when the bridge is opened, I predict to critical acclaim.

The Garden Bridge Infographic, March 2016

Following years of planning and fundraising, on Tuesday The Garden Bridge Trust announced that construction contracts had been signed, paving the way for building to start within a few months. The bridge is due to open in 2018. As the infographic above illustrates, the 366m span will be enjoyed by 9,000 commuters each weekday and no doubt a greater number of tourists and sightseers. Dan Pearson’s planting scheme, which aims to transport us from formality on the north bank to naturalism on the south bank, will include 600 trees, shrubs, climbers and grasses, plus a further 32,000 perennials carefully selected to provide year-round interest. All will need to be tough enough to survive in one of the coldest and most exposed locations in the capital. The views through foliage and flowers will take in some of London’s other great landmarks, including St. Paul’s Cathedral. To celebrate the start of the final planning stages, The Garden Bridge Trust created the video below, which is perfectly professional but oddly short of detail about the bridge itself.

To further whet our appetite the trust have started releasing images illustrating how the bridge will look through the seasons. Below we see a romantic vision of the crossing on a cold, frosty winter’s morning, The Shard seen through a haze of willow catkins and red berries. At the top of this post we can imagine the scene a few months later, in spring, a couple enjoying some of the 70,000 bulbs that will be planted by the bridge’s 20 strong gardening staff. 

If these renderings are not enough to make the hearts of the cynics skip a beat then they have very hard hearts indeed. London has an astonishing record of delivering great landmark projects that have endured: who’d have thought in the year 2000 that we’d have good words to say about The O2, or that The London Eye would still be rotating? The Garden Bridge will be another world class attraction fit for a world class city. I’ll be standing in the queue on opening day, proud to say I told you so.

More Posts about The Garden Bridge

Images: Arup / The Garden Bridge Trust / Thomas Heatherwick

The Garden Bridge in Winter, March 2016