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June 29, 2017, 02:19 PM

Lessons from the Garden Bridge project

By Michael Morel

Garden Bridge project

London South West, UK - In April Mayor Sadiq Kahn effectively killed the controversial Garden Bridge project. After initially supporting the concept, Kahn cited risky public financing requirements as a deal breaker. 37 million of taxpayer money has already been lost planning this boondoggle.

At first glance, the cancellation seems a shame. The first of its kind, the bridge could have been an interactive paragon of green design in the heart of London. Stretching across the River Thames from the Temple tube station to the south bank, its park-like environment was meticulously designed by a multi-disciplinary team of engineers to improve London's biodiversity with 270 trees and over 100,000 plants. The planners envisioned a tranquil, utopian sanctuary open to all, right in the center of a bustling metropolis.

Enticing as this all sounds, the project's environmental accolades are questionable. With a 200m price tag, it is easy to imagine far cheaper ways to green London. That number alone gives credit to those who call the project greenwash.

The priciest part of what would have been the most expensive footbridge in history was a gleaming copper-nickel coating over the entire structure. Though funded by a private donor, the glitzy finish was guaranteed to incite controversy. It does not take a genius to imagine that lavishly spending on a silver plated monument in the wealthy heart of London, all under the guise of environmentalism and economic renewal, would infuriate many in this age of austerity.

Completely aside from these serious financial and environmental issues, there has been an almost comically long list of additional criticisms. Objections include concerns it will obstruct historic riverside views, worries the space will not be truly public, insufficient transparency in the construction procurement process, complaints from residents on the banks slated for construction, and even resentment at the manner in which visitors would have their phone signals monitored, ostensibly to prevent over crowding.

Most of these grievances are valid, but some sound overblown. An unfavorable comparison to New York City's High Line, which according to some has become too successful for its own good, is ridiculous. The High Line's popularity with tourists has made a tranquil, elevated walk through Manhattan elusive. That means more spaces like it should be created to appease demand, not less.

The Garden Bridge is a great concept worth pursuing. A new forest in the middle of the Thames would be an inspirational symbol of green design, but it must be done right. This botched attempt has provided us with many lessons to learn from.

Story Type:  News

ID: 100944

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