Chris Medland's Comments
Comment on: Garden Bridge backers hit out at critics
Its about principles and clarity. This garden bridge was initially portrayed as an infrastructure project and as such tax payers money is being spent through the TFL and Government funding of £60m - if this was the total cost of a new bridge and it would be owned by the tax payer through adoption by the councils etc. this would be fine and normal as long as the cost:benefit ratio stood up to the necessary scrutiny that is required when spending such amounts of tax payers money. However, the bridge is likely to cost at least £115m more than what we have promised as tax payers, so it needs to be more than a river crossing. It was then promoted as London's equivalent of the New York Highline - this is of course nonsense as the highline was an intuitive recycling of a derelict piece of existing infrastructure at very low cost into something extraordinary; not a new construction. It was then touted about as being about ecology and sustainability - this again is of course nonsense as the river bank and mudflat habitat is a rare and protected area whereas London is blessed with vast parks and hundreds of thousands of trees; and for £175m you can do an awful lot of good for ecology and sustainability elsewhere. Many substantial (around 30 I understand) trees will be felled to make way for the bridge also. So now the marketing is all about tourism; you may have noticed but London is not short of tourists. The city is a world city and already has huge pull in regard to tourism. If we agree that £60m is well spent and we get a new crossing at this point of the river then the idea that an extra £115m above and beyond the cost of a new bridge is required to attract more tourist is of course, again, nonsense. Therefore what it boils down to is that the poetry and romance brought to the proposal by Lumley and Heatherwick is required to attract private sponsorship - to pay the extra £115m the bridge needs to be a landmark and a place that large multi-national corporations want to be associated with (and can use on occasion to entertain other large corporations). So it becomes a posh park of sorts, a tourist attraction that doubles as a river crossing most of the time but needs to entertain its backers to survive financially. The added twist here is of course the location. The above funding strategy is less likely to work at Nine Elms, where many would prefer the bridge to be located, and arguably where is it needed, as the view simply isn't as good. Corporations will pay for a view in one direction of St Pauls and the City, and in the other the Palace of Westminster, but not one of private apartments like Riverlight. The problem that Lumley and co. face is that they are trying to sell something to the public and planning committees that already exists. We can all walk at sunrise and sunset along the tree lined embankment, surrounded by trees, or jog, or rollerblade or cycle along southbank with a majestic view of St Pauls. We can also currently walk across Waterloo Bridge and gain the most beautiful view of Westminster in one direction and the city and St Pauls in the other - and we can all do this for free. The problem for those who object is that the planning system is geared up for saying yes; they must consider what is put in front of them and cannot take into account the cost, where the money is coming from or if there are other options. Only politician can do this, the Mayor in particular in this instance. And his view seems pretty clear so far, therefore in conclusion because of the way the system is set up the garden bridges construction seems almost inevitable.
We as architects are always muted in our applause but It has become increasing clear that the London Eye was by no means a one-off. Marks Barfield are setting the standard now, their work is simply fantastic on all fronts and they are leaving the Lords of Foster, Rogers etc. in their wake. really great stuff well done
We could secure a lot of the amazon rain forest for £175m. We could plant a new forest in the west country, Wales or Scotland where land values allow. We could provide renewable energy to 1000's of people forever for this budget- we could power a town, we could build at least 6 other pedestrian bridges and pedestrianise waterloo bridge Please do not hold this up as a value for money sustainability project - it in no way is.
The Jubilee Bridge, connecting Battersea with Fulham new train station at Imperial Wharf, has planning consent, is compliant with the London Plan, it is part of the saved policies of both LB Hammersmith & Fulham and Wandsworth councils and is hugely supported locally by both the public and members of parliament. The proposals contribution to London both economically and in connectivity terms is highlighted in LB Wandsworth independent report which also notes a TfL cost:benfet ratio of 2.1:1; way above the pass mark for capital grant funding. This proposal is for a public bridge, it is a unique design and will hugely benefit the health and the environment of the area as outlined in the independent report. There are predicted to be at least 1.2 million uses a year and the GLA state ‘the design of the bridge is supported and represents and high standard of architecture in line with London Plan policy 7.6.’ on the report at the following link. http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/diamond_jubilee_footbridge_report.pdf However, when asked Michele Dix at TfL stated 'I can confirm TfL does not hold a budget for these purposes'. So we enquired as to how then £60m of public money was assigned to the Garden Bridge, the response was: ' The case for this contribution has been made on the back of the unique design of the bridge and public space and the potential benefits this will bring to London in terms of connectivity and economic development.' We pointed out that the Diamond Jubilee Bridge fits all of these criteria, already has planning consent and is around 1 tenth of the cost, and TfL replied by saying we should seek funding from local business in the area. There are conclusions to be drawn from this but we will let you draw you own.
please AJ - we are not reading your publication to be shown pictures of sofa's and kitchen CGI's! How many units are there - density? What is the targeted CfSH rating and how is it achieved? Social housing component, floor plans, car parking, services and energy strategy, wall construction, construction methodology, procurement route etc etc? Otherwise you just look like you are being used as a Fosters PR facility
I am a big fan of Cameron, and have met him several times and supported AFH for many years. However I think he may have misjudged this one.
sometimes it seems that people are scarred to say what they really think through fear of being shouted down. Nice scheme, wrong place. Nothing like the high line which essentially recycled an existing piece of structure - this is an expensive new 'park' that blocks the best view of London from waterloo bridge and the south bank. This is not a sustainability driven project and if it was there would be a multitude of better ways to spend £175million; and it is not a transport driven project (what is the cost:benefit ratio?). As great as it may be the existing situation is better. There I've said it.
This issue is very close to home for a small practice like ours. We lease offices in London, which the freeholder has plans to convert to apartments but will not say exactly when. It has to be said that some of the ground floor units which were initially designed as commercial space, make awful apartments, particularly those that lead onto the Thames path in Battersea as they is literally no privacy (perhaps the permitted development rights went too far in some instances). There is a shortage of smaller sized office space, i.e. less than 1000sqft but a lot of empty retail space around this size. Permitted development allows retail to be used as office for 3 years, however retail landlords are holding out for retail rents, even though the shops remain empty for years at a time. If the landlords rental expectations could drop then offices such as those required by architectural practices could be part of the solution to bringing life to local high streets.
Debate is of course important and ultimately will be beneficial. The AJ is taking up a lot of copy on this issue and although the recommendations are interesting I cant help by wonder who is best placed to give expert views on this issue. The issue is not as simple as height, density etc. - its not just an architectural or planning issue, its one of society, psychology and base human needs. There is a chronic housing shortage, there are limited models of providing space for new homes, I hear NO to highrise and NO to building on green belt, we cant all keep saying no to everything so lets find out what the best way of doing things are, at a human level, before rejecting ideas. Where is the sociological research? Too many opinions, not enough science?