Leading novelists, cultural figures and architects are part of an ‘escalating backlash’ against Thomas Heatherwick’s proposed Garden Bridge
Writer Will Self, artist Grayson Perry, film-maker and critic Jonathan Meades, author Iain Sinclair and the former managing director of the City of London’s Barbican arts centre John Tusa have all criticised the £175m Garden Bridge plan, it has been reported.
On Sunday The Observer published a round-up of attacks from leading figures and quoted Tusa as saying the bridge was ‘a colossal vanity project for Lumley, Johnson and Osborne’ and his comment: ‘Who needs it? Who wants it? Who will pay to run it? It all adds up to a misuse of power, position and influence.’
Perry, the paper said, had tweeted: ‘It seems like a nice idea that is in the wrong place and for the wrong people. They should build it in Hull.’
Meanwhile Will Self described the designs as ‘crap’, adding: ‘I don’t like the bridge. Boris is being a dick over it, and silly old Joanna Lumley – what’s she going to do? March Gurkhas up and down it?”
Meades told the newspaper that Heatherwick should not have been given the commission, saying: ‘[He is] a sort of graphic designer. We’ve got a lot of brilliant architects. [He is the] wrong person; sweet guy, but not an architect.’
CZWG’s Piers Gough, the architect behind the green bridge at Mile End in the East End of London, hit out at the procurement process for the bridge, branding it a ‘scandal in the making’.
In March this year, a Freedom of Information request by the AJ uncovered the fact that Thomas Heatherwick’s firm had been given higher marks for design experience than two of the UK’s leading bridge architects - namely Wilkinson Eyre and Marks Barfield - during Transport for London’s selection process in 2013.
Speaking to the newspaper, Will Hurst, deputy editor of AJ agreed that many architects were disgruntled by the way the tender appeared to have ‘sidestepped the normal rules of planning and procurement’.
The previous weekend, the Observer also led with an editiorial claiming that the planted structure over the Thames was ‘a bridge too far’, criticising most of the scheme’s benefits championed by its backers the Garden Bridge Trust and Joanna Lumley.
Last Thursday, the Garden Bridge Trust published a revised construction timetable which claimed the bridge will be completed in less than three years - even though the schemes faces a Judicial Review later this month.
Local resident Michael Ball’s ongoing judicial review challenging Lambeth Council’s decision to approve the controversial bridge is scheduled for a High Court hearing between 10-11 June.
The Garden Bridge was originally planned to be 100 per cent funded by the private sector but is now due to receive £60million worth of public money.
A spokesman for the bridge said the scheme had received lots of support from a raft of leading names, including Richard Rogers, Nicholas Bacon, the president of the Royal Horticultural Society and Ruth Duston, the chief executive of the Northbank Business Improvement District.
Bee Emmott, executive director, Garden Bridge Trust
‘It is sad that critics of the plan for a new, free-to-use pedestrian bridge across the Thames, to be built in London between now and 2018, continue to peddle already refuted allegations about the project’s history, over-blown claims, and significant inaccuracies (Observer, 24 May), rather than properly debating the merits of the idea.
‘Transport for London’s procurement process for design of the Garden Bridge was wholly proper, and it has not been subject to any legal challenge. It is not true that £3.5m of public money will be required each year to maintain the Bridge; this is a legal guarantee, not a funding commitment. In fact, this is a bridge being built mainly with private money. And it is pure hyberbole to claim, as one critic did, that the bridge will destroy beauty; in fact it will create a unique new urban environment with approaching 100,000 plants, shrubs, bulbs and trees, and new views in a city that has always embraced change and innovation.
‘The bridge will bring London and Londoners, commuters and visitors alike, real benefits, ones widely acknowledged by supporters as varied as the architect Richard Rogers and business leaders from the north bank of the Thames where the Bridge will provide invaluable connections and advantages.
‘The bridge’s consultation process showed very high levels of public support. Just as with the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, perhaps the public (and history) will be better judges of its merits than the small number of vocal campaigners now fighting so hard against what will be a fantastic new landmark for the capital.’