London mayor Boris Johnson is backing proposals for an iconic new “garden” bridge across the Thames, similar to New York’s High Line elevated park, NCE can exclusively reveal.
The bridge is designed by consultant Arup and London 2012 Olympic Torch architect Thomas Heatherwick, who jointly won a competitive tender run by the mayor’s Transport for London (TfL) department.
In contrast to the minimalist Arup-designed Millennium pedestrian bridge, the new crossing will be more elaborate, widening and narrowing along its span. It will support a park containing plants from London and across Britain.
The new icon will cross the river from Victoria Embankment on the north bank of the Thames at Temple to the South Bank, between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. It is an attempt to revitalise the Temple area on the north bank and open up pedestrian routes to Covent Garden and Soho to the north.
The concept is similar to New York’s High Line viaduct, a disused elevated freight rail line that has been transformed along 1.6km into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side.
Its success in opening up public spaces in a congested city triggered interest abroad, not least from Johnson who has previously expressed a desire to better exploit the pedestrian opportunities around the River Thames.
Ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games he gave his backing to plans for a £60M, 1km long floating walkway beside the Thames.
But that scheme ran into trouble in 2011 when it was feared the walkway’s supports could alter the river’s flow causing damage nearby bridges.
“The mayor has a long-standing commitment to increasing river crossings across the Thames,” a spokesman for Johnson told NCE. “He is also keen to help progress in London an iconic scheme similar to the New York High Line. He has instructed TfL to examine ways to do this.
“A proposal is currently being progressed following a competitive tender process. The construction of the structure is entirely dependent on third party funding.”
TfL managing director for planning Michele Dix said: “Proposals for a new landmark pedestrian bridge are being developed to link Temple with the South Bank, in line with the mayor’s transport strategy and aspirations to improve pedestrian access and river crossings. The bridge will help support economic activity while providing commuters arriving at Waterloo with alternative options to cross the river.
“These plans for the bridge are being developed by Heatherwick Studio and Arup following a competitive tender conducted by TfL. Current emerging ideas for the bridge include direct routes for pedestrians alongside the creation of a major public space across the Thames, incorporating a garden.
“TfL will work with the relevant authorities including Westminster, Lambeth and the Port of London Authority to further develop these plans, steering them through to planning permission stage.”
NCE understands that a high profile sponsor is being sought, an approach Johnson has favoured elsewhere. Notable examples include the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture in the Olympic Park and the Emirates Air Line cable car which crosses the Thames. Steel giant ArcelorMittal contributed the bulk of the Orbit’s costs, while airline Emirates partfunded the Air Line. Technology company Apple is rumoured to be interested in sponsoring the new river crossing.
The bridge is also being promoted by actor and campaigner Joanna Lumley, who in 1999 campaigned for a Princess Diana Memorial Bridge in the London (NCE 21 October 1999).
The design concept is still in development and will not be finalised or published in full until mid-July. Heatherwick Studio and Arup are now developing engineering aspects of the scheme.
“The concept fits naturally with an efficient, balanced cantilever construction strategy that minimises impact on the Thames from both navigation and environmental perspectives,” said Arup building design chairman Tristram Carfrae.
“We are delighted to be helping develop plans for such a beautiful addition to London’s urban habitat,” he said.