A 'Garden Bridge' Across the Thames

londonJohn O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, June 14, 2013

Thomas Heatherwick received global acclaim following the unveiling of the cauldron designed by his studio for the London 2012 Olympic Games, but his most enduring contribution to the capital could be yet to come if his plans for a 'Garden Bridge' that spans the Thames are approved.

Commissioned by TfL to explore the opportunity of a pedestrian river crossing, Heatherwick has proposed that north and south of London are connected by a lush garden complete with woodland and wildflowers. His design for the ‘Garden Bridge’ has been endorsed by Joanna Lumley, who said: “It's quite strange to talk of something that doesn't exist yet, but the Garden Bridge is already vivid in the plans and the imagination.

"This garden will be sensational in every way: a place with no noise or traffic where the only sounds will be birdsong and bees buzzing and the wind in the trees, and below the steady rush of water. It will be the slowest way to cross the river, as people will dawdle and lean on parapets and stare at the great cityscapes all around; but it will also be a safe and swift way for the weary commuter to make his way back over the Thames.

"There will be grasses, trees, wild flowers, and plants, unique to London's natural riverside habitat. And there will be blossom in the spring and even a Christmas tree in mid-winter. I believe it will bring to Londoners and visitors alike peace and beauty and magic."

If built, the Garden Bridge would be erected in the stretch of the river around Temple and east of the Southbank Centre. The Evening Standard reports that Heatherwick Studios is working with engineering firm Arup to finesse the plans in order to submit them for planning permission next spring. That would make 2016 the earliest possible opening date but, as Greater London Authority will not invest public money in the bridge, its construction will be dependent on funds being provided by private sponsors.

Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic cauldron was dismantled after last summer’s Games, with one of the 204 petals that formed the structure gifted to each participating nation. Also designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the first new bus to be built specifically for London began service on a limited number of routes in February 2012. A hybrid vehicle modelled on the Routemaster and with an exit at the back, over 600 of the buses will enter passenger service by 2016. The last new bridge to be built across the Thames was the Millennium Bridge by Foster + Partners, initially opened in 2000 before being closed due to safety concerns, and reopened in 2002.