London's Crazy Stupid Garden Bridge Is Actually Going Ahead

By Chris Mills on at

Let's say, right, you're the council for a giant city with a rising population, serious housing problems and a centuries-old public transit system. And you've got £175 million to spend on a new infrastructure project. Do you think you should a) spend that money on a garden footbridge that's only open during the day, or b) something actually useful?

If you said A, then you're clearly a member of London's Westminster Council. Because no one else could possibly be vain or misguided enough to think that Thomas Heatherwick's 'Garden Bridge' is actually a good idea. In short, it's a footbridge across the Thames, in the centre of the capital, only it's got a garden built on it.

On the surface, it looks kind of fun and quirky and an oasis of calm in the middle of the big city, etcetera — but in reality, it's perhaps not the greatest use of public money. But regardless, it's now got planning permission from the necessary two councils, with construction due to start in 2015.

For starters, as footbridges go, it's ridiculously expensive. London built itself another footbridge, the infamously wobbly Millennium Bridge, in 2000 for a cost (in 2014 money) of £18 million. By comparison, the Garden Bridge will run to £60 million for taxpayer contributions alone, thanks to the copper construction.

Adding insult to the financial injury for locals, the bridge will only be open during the day and any groups of eight or more people will need to obtain "special permission" to cross, in an effort to avoid overcrowding and political protests. That cuts the actual usefulness of the footbridge — already pretty damn low — down a few more notches.

All this might — MIGHT! — be excusable if the city was sorely lacking in green space. But the fact of the matter is, London is incredibly well-endowed with existing parks. In case you forgot, there are eight big Royal Parks, totalling some 4,900 acres of land, in the capital. New York's much-trumpeted Central Park is a mere 843 acres by comparison.

London isn't begging for more trees, it's begging for affordable housing, or more expansions to the Underground system to make the morning commute less hellish. Although the goal of making the urban sprawl a more pleasant place to be is certainly laudable, building expensive and frankly unnecessary parks in the middle of rivers is definitely not the way to go about it. [Dezeen]