17 November 2014

Heatherwick's Garden Bridge gains planning consent from Lambeth Council

Love it or loathe it, the world's most expensive pedestrian bridge has now secured half of the planning consent that it needs to go ahead. Of course, I loathe it. It's an utterly disgraceful waste of public money in a location which doesn't need another tourist attraction, nor need to be the site of a bridge which would permanently wreck the London riverscape.

As with the ill-fated River Wear Crossing in Sunderland, public opinion has been consistently misrepresented by its backers. Other than one or two people involved with the design team, I've not met a professional bridge designer who likes it. The architecture critics see it for the white elephant that it is. Even London's mayor doesn't quite see why he's spending public money on it. A highly critical and cogent campaign against it by local residents seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

What's clear about the Garden Bridge is how the cult of celebrity provides a comfort blanket allowing people to suspend their normal critical faculties. It's got Heatherwick, it must be good. Joanna Lumley likes it. It seems clear that, short of hoping for the bridge to fail to secure the necessary funding or to come in way over-budget once it reaches construction tender stage (both being quite realistic possibilities of course), the only way to put a stop to this fiasco is for the designers themselves to wake up to the realities of their iconic fantasy, do the decent thing, and quit.

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