From one bank to another
Ian Martin embarks on a series of high-profile bridge designs
MONDAY Bridges are back in vogue. Maybe capital has finally created all the luxury residential investment it requires. Just look at that grotesque ‘Dubai To Let’ smeared along the Thames. So neo-gangsterism’s liquid assets must now flow into boutique engineering. It’s a good fit. Many contemporary bridges ARE ultimately commissioned by a remote, doner kebab-shaped ‘businessman’ with ungrammatical tattoos and a sentimental streak.
And maybe everyone’s bored stiff with architects again. These things go in cycles. Architecture, engineering, architecture, engineering. One generation venerates wankers who look like a Doctor Who convention on fold-up bikes and their ‘over-visionary passion for people-spaces’. The next generation venerates humourless arseholes who look like auctioneers but actually have knighthoods.
Still, no shortage of clients. Municipal munchkins all over the world love a high-profile bridge, however pointless and expensive. It proclaims the future to be somehow OK. The fancy bridge as civic comfort blanket. The innovative bridge as creativity signifier. Honestly, it’s the Millennium all over again. And this week I will cantilever like it’s 1999.
TUESDAY Today’s Bridge: The Forest Bridge, a dense arboretum crammed into a raised park, arching over the river Ribble. It will massively improve the local landscape by creating views of an obscured Preston.
God, bridges are so bloody EASY. I’ve sketched all that out by mid-morning, including jolly microlights in the sky and smartarse turbines on the horizon. Just in time for some great news. As part of the mayor of London’s affordable housing initiative I’ve won planning permission for a new favela to be organically created around a gym in Tottenham.
And don’t tell me poverty can’t be picturesque; you should see the renderings. Gorgeous.
WEDNESDAY Big day. My old friend the ecomentalist Amy Blackwater is being released from prison. This will be the signal to activate Space Avengers, the architectural vigilante group dedicated to restoring sanity to the London skyline by destroying the Shard.
She’s our leader. Like Indira Ghandi or Golda Meir. Although technically she’s a murderer. And in a wheelchair. And wearing a balaclava. And vegan. And always so very cross. I just hope there’s not too much unpleasantness ahead.
Today’s Bridge: The Bridge of Size, a purely emblematic 84-mile aerial link between Oxford and Cambridge, illustrating how ancient academic rivalry is really just a silly old two-way elevated pedestrian metaphor.
THURSDAY Today’s Bridge: The Cardboard Bridge. A brilliant exercise in structural cardboard, demonstrating the incredible versatility of cardboard that’s been waterproofed, reinforced, combined with load-bearing materials and clad in something convincing.
FRIDAY Ingenious. They’re moving the Swedish city of Kiruna two miles away so they can dig up the iron ore it’s sitting on. This has inspired my proposal to transport the Shinwell Estate in Lewisham to a new permanent location in Lincolnshire, in order to exploit the natural resources of the original site. To wit, valuable development potential.
Today’s Bridge: The Ladies’ Bridge, Jeddah. Just a bit of fun, really. As part of the city’s proposed new £10 billion transport system, it’s a women-only bridge over an ornamental river, leading through black curtains to a queue of minibuses waiting to take the ladies home, from where they should not have ventured in the first place. As I say, a bit of fun and NB pandering to a client’s every whim does NOT necessarily mean endorsement, etc.
SATURDAY Day off. Just do a little aqueduct for a laugh.
SUNDAY Extraordinary meeting of Space Avengers, hungover and on double-time. Amy Blackwater in the wheelchair. The mystery funder of Operation Skyline Correction (summary: nothing higher than the Gherkin) is a disgruntled former ’80s developer thwarted at the time by Prince Charles and the Planning Sycophants. OK, they sound like a harmless trad jazz band now but they were deadly then.
Opinion in our group is split. Extremists want to blow up the Shard. Moderates, including me, don’t. After some discussion it’s agreed that we try non-violence first. Beansy the nanofuturologist has invented a powerful softening compound which we’ll disperse gradually during trips to the Shard’s expensive viewing platform.
Beansy reckons after four goes the top of the Shard will start to droop over a bit and will have to be evacuated. That’s when our guys, disguised as hardening contractors, go in and soften it into further dysfunction. ‘Softly softly detumescee Shardy’. That’s our motto? God help us.