London's Garden Bridge: Backing and Backlash
"Is this really what Londoners want?"
'It's too expensive'. 'It's in the wrong place'. 'It's not what Londoners need'. As London's Garden Bridge proposal continues to court controversy, driven by the set of planning permissions granted over the past week, we take a look at some of the best writing and public critiques of Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge proposal.
With planning approval granted from both Lambeth and Westminster, the final planning hurdle for the bridge will be the seal of approval from the Mayor himself. Given that Boris Johnson has already voiced support for the project, it seems ever more likely that the Heatherwick-designed scheme will go ahead. But many Londoners are not convinced as convinced as the scheme's celebrity backers. Here we round up some of the best critiques of the project in light of last night's planning approval decision at Westminster:
"This project perpetuates the idea that you can plan a city by headlines, stunts and novelties, a culture of I'm-a-celebrity-build-me-some-infrastructure, rather than addressing what it really needs. It's hard to say this in the face of the genuine enthusiasm of Morrell, Davies and other believers but, sorry, I'm a Grinch." – Rowan Moore on why the Garden Bridge is barking up the wrong tree.
"The Garden Bridge jumps through incredible hoops to create a park on a bridge…Surely the charm of the Thames is its scale and the remarkable views. Foster + Partners' Millennium Bridge and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands' Hungerford footbridges celebrate that vastness. This exposed location is not the place for a manicured park."- Hattie Martman on why the Garden Bridge is not London's answer to the New York High Line.
"Such a measure suggests that the garden bridge, as its critics have suspected, is not in fact a bridge – in the sense of being a public right of way across the river – but another privately managed tourist attraction, on which £60m of public money is to be lavished." – Oliver Wainwright writing on the public park where groups and cyclists aren't welcome.
"It might sound churlish to oppose a design that appears intent on bringing greenery to the city, but this is the answer to a question no one was asking. There are 22 bridges west of Tower Bridge and only one to the east. It is the east where public money is needed, to create real infrastructure rather than a privately-owned folly."- Edwin Heathcote asking What could be wrong with Garden Bridge over Thames?
"The Garden Bridge Trust will be delighted at tonight's permission. This is a big step for them but campaigners will already be plotting other ways to stop the bridge." – Tom Edwards on the implications of last night's planning decision.
"It's neither a garden nor a bridge, being mainly hard-standing space (with less than half a football pitch of green space), and with 90% of users not expected to use it to cross the river. But it will have a devastating impact on the river's ecosystem and historic foreshore, and will bring up to 7 million visitors to a South Bank already bursting with tourists." - Change.org petition (1,467 supporters at the time of writing).
The range of questions and critiques being raised by the public and practitioners alike seems to stand at odds with the relatively painless planning procedures and budgetary that the project has enjoyed. A project of this nature is bound to raise more than an eyebrow in a city like London where investments into transport infrastructure and housing affordability problems are more likely to speak to the experience of the majority of the city's residents, especially given the amount of public money contributed at both the national and city level.
The bridge is billed by its supporters as an 'iconic landmark', a whimsical spot from which to admire London, but as criticism continues to mount, the powers that be should in fact be the ones taking a moment to reflect on the city: is this really what Londoners want?