By Lorrin Windahl.
Back at the end of the last millennium, British actor and activist Joanna Lumley dreamed up an idea to create a garden bridge in memory of Princess Diana. That never eventuated and the years passed without the idea becoming much more than just an image in her head. That was until recently, when she partnered with designer Thomas Heatherwick and the idea was finally visualised. And it appears that the dream will now become a reality after the Westminster & Lambeth Council’s approved the plans. But although a beautiful and considered green space, the project has been heavily criticised, largely due to its high cost and a lack of need for it.
The proposal is a visually striking foot bridge made from timber and copper and lined with abundant greenery. It’s not unlike the High Line in New York, although much more beautiful. It’s unquestionably a green space that people will want to linger and socialise in, but the project is not without its critics.
Firstly, the need for it is heavily debated, especially since there is already a bridge a mere 300 metres away. Next there is the cost. At an alleged £175 million it certainly has people questioning the validity of the project. And to add to these costs maintenance is estimated at £3.5 million annually.
The idea of it being a public space is also contentious. According to a recent TreeHugger article, the bridge is being created more like a private attraction than a public space. It will be closed for 12 days a year for public events, cyclists are not permitted, it is closed at night and limited group sizes are allowed without a permit due to them being a protest threat.
So is this just an example of green for green’s sake? Is it another case of fantastical idea put before actual need? Or is it a functional piece of art that will become an iconic landmark for London and a sanctuary for its commuters?
Images courtesy of Heatherwick Studio and Arup.