Thames Garden Bridge, London
Mention garden bridges to most people and they’ll probably think of one of those small, wooden bridges, generally seen in the front gardens of elderly people and often accompanied by a smattering of garden gnomes.
This cannot, however, be said of the planned Thames Garden Bridge which, to the best of our knowledge, will feature no garden gnomes whatsoever.
Instead, the bridge will itself act as an enormous garden, filled with trees, woodland, and shrubs, with the notable distinction of spanning all the way over the River Thames. However, despite its green credentials, the bridge will be situated in a very un-gardeney part of London – between the Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge – with the concrete jungle Southbank Centre on one end and the dual-carriageway Victoria Embankment on the other. This should guarantee a fairly constant stream of tourists and prevent the bridge from turning, like Central Park, into a drug-users’ paradise in the evenings – although the designers have already spoken of ‘sight lines’ to be built into the design in order to prevent any such clandestine activity.
The idea of a garden bridge was, in fact, first suggested in 1998 by Joanna Lumley as a possible memorial for Princess Diana. It’s only really been the past few years, though, that progress has been made on the bridge’s design and planning, and now a possible completion date has been set for sometime in 2017 (despite construction not having commenced).
The appearance is unusual, and looks rather like two enormous plant pots stretching their way across the Thames with trees springing out of their tops. It does, however, look a lot more relaxing than attempting to cross Tower Bridge in rush hour traffic, horns blaring and a perpetual risk of having to wait ages while a boat passes. Furthermore, it appears as if cyclists will be banned from using the bridge – a huge bonus for pedestrians tired of constantly having to be on the look-out for a speeding Boris bike.
Of course, the completion of the bridge is not yet guaranteed, although there are a few promising signs. For instance, the Treasury has said it will contribute £30 million towards the cost of the bridge if it can be proven to be value for money. Furthermore, the designers working on the project all have excellent reputations. The first of these will no doubt be a well-known name to anybody with an interest in design: Heatherwick Studio. The founder of this studio, Thomas Heatherwick, has already made a major mark on London. For instance, it was Heatherwick who designed the new ‘Boris buses’ – the Routemasters which, cleverly, look sleek and modern while simultaneously hinting back at past buses. It was also Heartherwick who created the Rolling Bridge in London’s Paddington Basin. Unlike ordinary bridges, this pedestrian one rolls up into something resembling a hamster ball when a boat wishes to pass through (although, presumably, the Garden Bridge will not make use of this design).
The other two companies working on the project are the Dan Pearson Studio and Arup.
With such a promising team behind the bridge, then, it may not be long until all it takes to get from one side of the Thames to the other is a relaxing walk through a garden.