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Astragal: Ping-pong with Boris Johnson – another empty Garden Bridge promise


Transport for London’s breakdown of exactly how £53 million was wasted on an unbuilt Garden Bridge makes for a captivating read

Some of the amounts, such as the £2.76 million pocketed by Heatherwick Studio and Arup’s near £13 million, were more or less known. 

However the whopping £21.4 million handed to contractors Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA, despite serious doubts about the project’s future, was more than most expected. The detailed spreadsheet also revealed how the Garden Bridge Trust spent £148,000 on visualisations for fundraising and £2.3 million on legal costs. The trust’s various executives also took home £1.7 million in salaries.

Another major outlay went on the search for bombs at the bottom of the Thames – part of £1.3 million spent on marine geotechnical surveys, which involved the sinking of dozens of boreholes into the riverbed.

A further £425,000 went to cover the costs of ITV, which was worried about the noise and disruption of construction works close to its Good Morning Britain studio, and £235,000 to landowner Coin Street Builders. Meanwhile CABE received £3,500 for its design review services.

But it wasn’t all spend, spend, spend. The document also reveals how generous donors bid £3,200 at a charity auction to play ping-pong with ex-London Mayor and arch-bridge backer Boris Johnson.

Sadly, this highly anticipated game never took place and the bidder ultimately had their money repaid.

The former mayor not delivering on his promises? Surely not.

Scruton’s shed claim fails to provoke ARB

Mediating in ‘misuse of title’ disputes with run-of-the-mill fake architects is an everyday occurrence for the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Yet recently the regulator found itself presiding over a more unusual case when the philosopher and aesthetics professor Roger Scruton landed in the dock. 

It all started at the government’s design conference in Birmingham where Scruton casually remarked he hadn’t picked any architects for his Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission as they had ‘vested interests’. 

One Tweeter quipped this was like not visiting a dentist because they might have a vested interest in pulling teeth. 

However, things escalated when Scruton added: ‘I’m an architect – I designed my garden shed.’ 

Some mused over what kind of outhouse this might be – did it conform to the Doric order? Did his neighbours approve?

Others were outraged he had dared to self-identify as an architect and appealed to the powers at ARB. 

The body came to a swift decision and, with uncharacteristic breeziness, replied on Twitter: ‘You may be interested to know that if the title “architect” isn’t used in the course of business or practice, it is unlikely to be a breach of the law.’ Carry on, professor!  

In Egham, no one can hear you scream 

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01 rmc hq

People having too much fun on a neighbouring site can cause unexpected headaches for architects.

Readers may recall how the Ministry of Sound nightclub objected to plans for a tower by Allies and Morrison next to its Elephant and Castle home on the grounds that the scheme’s new residents might complain about noise from the superclub.

Bizarrely, a similar issue has arisen in leafy Egham. 

Last year, Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt submitted well-received plans to convert Ted Cullinan’s Grade II*-listed Ready Mix Concrete building (pictured) in Surrey into an 81-home retirement living complex.

However it has hit a small problem. Thorpe Park, the theme park that sits across the nearby Manor Lake, is trying to block the scheme. 

Its objection: that the peace-seeking retirees, once moved in, will complain about the screams from people on the rides and that the threat of injunctions from them could ultimately be ‘detrimental’ to the park’s business.

A decision on the project has now been put back while investigations into noise levels continue.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Re the Garden Bridge: there weren't serious doubts about its future until very late in the day when Mayor Khan, who had supported the idea, decided to waste tens of millions of pounds of public money by not going ahead with a serious project which was being thoroughly prepared (hence the spending on contractors and bomb detection). The real scandal is that Londoners got nothing for their money, when this could have been one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe. As I have pointed out before, the public purse could have been amply recompensed by making the bridge part of the TfL network and charging for its use via oyster card. This would have been a massive money-maker, not a drain on resources. The lack of strategic and creative thinking on the part of the current mayor is what is really worrying, not trivialities about ping pong.

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  • "The body came to a swift decision and, with uncharacteristic breeziness, replied on Twitter: ‘You may be interested to know that if the title “architect” isn’t used in the course of business or practice, it is unlikely to be a breach of the law.’ Carry on, professor! "

    What if somebody who isn't an Architect claims to be one in general conversation? They haven't actually claimed to be an Architect in the course of business or practice but because of their claim someone might rely on what is said as being advice from an Architect. By the ARB's definition they aren't committing any offence? From the perspective of the injured party the title of Architect is a pointless waste of time as anybody can and does use it. What exactly is the point of the ARB and why exactly am I paying for it?

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  • For Paul Finch: the fact that it was to be a private space - capable of closure for private events - was enough to give me serious doubts about its future.
    And the way in which it was procured - and the public (seemingly front-loaded) finance 'contribution' was justified, partly by a Chancellor of the Exchequer who at the same time was priding himself in repairing the post-crash national finances by doing serious damage to a wide range of publicly financed services - was enough to convince me that there was some serious rottenness at the heart of this project.

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