05 May 2009

New habitable bridge proposed over Thames

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has resurrected a proposal to build an inhabited bridge across the River Thames. He's using as a model Antoine Grumbach's design for the 1996 Thames Water Habitable Bridge competition (pictured right).

The new proposal is for a "living" bridge to run from between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. Johnson is quoted as seeking a bridge which:

"will once again provide a commercial zone . . . a bridge that actually has residential and commercial property on it, as the old London Bridge did".
Previous schemes for a habitable bridge in London went nowhere - I've covered the Peabody Trust proposal here previously, and will be covering the Thames Water competition in more detail in a future post. The major problem, particularly in a city as rich in history as London, is the impact of a habitable bridge on views along and across the river.

Grumbach's design is in my view a poor effort - as with many habitable bridge designs, the practicalities of creating housing on the river are fraught with difficulty, and so Grumbach's residential element is limited to riverside towers (of which there is hardly any shortage in London). Comparing with the Old London Bridge (pictured right in 1745), where people lived directly above the river, it's less romantic, and frankly less exciting.

I'll be astonished if this latest proposal actually gets anywhere - likely developers will remain financially constrained in the near future, and nervous of the extreme unlikelihood of such a scheme ever getting planning consent.

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