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Shuttleworth: 'The Garden Bridge makes a statement about London's creativity'

  • 9 Comments

Make’s Ken Shuttleworth says Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge should be embraced as a celebration of London’s creative expertise and its willingness to evolve

London’s fortunes have been built on centuries of change. The city has constantly evolved to meet the needs of a growing population, and its streets and public spaces have developed in response to our aspirations. The capital we have now is vibrant and successful. But what of its future?

The communities and the amenities that are currently taking shape around us will determine what sort of city London becomes. Plans to build a garden stretching over the River Thames are a reflection of the value we want to create for the people who will flock here to live, work and invest. They highlight what we believe will be important. As the density of our city increases to accommodate an expected, and rapid, rise in population our public spaces will have a vital role. They will act as the glue between the city and its citizens, and they will help us create places that are more than attractive and pleasant, they’re liveable.

London’s identity is a celebration of new ideas and brave choices

Innovative designer Thomas Heatherwick, who imagined how the garden will look and is now bringing it to fruition, says it is more than a convenient river crossing or an area to pass through. He has designed a place - somewhere people can meet and relax, or enjoy the atmosphere and the views. It gives us the chance to look at the city from a different perspective. This amazing space, sitting at the heart of a world-leading destination, will encourage exploration and discovery. It may even act as a catalyst for a new type of people-friendly development that will stitch the city together beautifully.

Garden Bridge planting visuals

London’s identity is a celebration of new ideas and of our brave choices. Peers such as Thomas, and Richard Rogers, have already noted the iconic structures that were opposed at the time of their development and have since become an important part of our city’s skyline. It reinforces the point that it’s very easy to do nothing. It’s much harder to contemplate change.

The design for the Garden Bridge is wonderful because it is ambitious - it makes a statement about the expertise and the creativity London offers its residents and the rest of the world. It would be a shame to miss this extraordinary opportunity to bring the garden to life. It is a chance to build on the city’s success, and at the same time make it a better place to be.

Ken Shuttleworth is the founder of Make. He worked on the Millennium Bridge while at Foster + Partners

  • 9 Comments

Readers' comments (9)

  • I agree that it makes a huge statement.

    One that sticks a finger up to democracy, public space, sensible uses of public finance during apparent austerity, one that favours glam and glitz of the shiny new over the history and heritage it stands in front of.

    But are these the statements we want to create a city around?

    I can think of many other statements I would rather London was modelled on: humanity, community, environmental improvements, a relationship and shared respect between new and old.



    "London’s identity is a celebration of new ideas and of our brave choices. Peers such as Thomas, and Richard Rogers, have already noted the iconic structures that were opposed at the time of their development and have since become an important part of our city’s skyline."

    This is a totally misleading argument, because it implies that ALL opposed projects go on to be wonderfully loved and valuable assets. This is clearly not the case. The public frequently, and have in the past, opposed political or architectural statements which nonetheless have gone on to happen and cause huge damage.


    "As the density of our city increases to accommodate an expected, and rapid, rise in population our public spaces will have a vital role."
    And yet doesn't mention how this small amount of greenspace with 2,500 tourists on and a queing system for a further 2,500 will help this issue in any way whatsoever.

    "It is a chance to build on the city’s success, and at the same time make it a better place to be."
    For who, I wonder? Londoners who are paying huge sums for a privately owned tourist attraction that has future possibility of ticketing and many more days of closure to 'public' access?

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  • Industry Professional

    Well said Ken Shuttleworth! To the list of reasons about why we should all embrace the Garden Bridge I would add:
    •As well as connecting the South Bank to Victoria Embankment, the bridge creates a new and amazing space for Londoners and visitors alike. A place for relaxation, recreation and social interaction, encouraging people to enjoy London on foot
    •The bridge does more than one thing which people find confronting. On one hand 10,000 people will use it every day as part of a more serene daily commute. At the same time it will be a unique place to just be – and to enjoy more of London’s best views amongst Dan Pearson’s garden rather than next to dual carriageway traffic
    •it will invigorate passion for horticulture and nature in London.
    •Over 65% of the capital costs to build the bridge will be fundraised from the private sector, representing a significant gift to the public
    •It will improve London’s walkability, improving personal health and benefitting the environment
    •Pedestrian numbers will be very similar to the Millennium Bridge but with twice the pedestrianised area it will be far less congested.
    •It will improve transport connectivity, providing a much needed direct connection to Temple Underground and reducing pressure on Waterloo Station
    •The Bridge will connect into the existing ecologies of the North and South Bank
    •The Bridge will be free. There will be no charge or ticketing system. It will be open to the public from 6am and until midnight all year round.
    •To avoid taxpayers footing the bill for its ongoing maintenance it will be closed for a maximum of 12 days (or more likely 12 part days) when it will host fundraising and community events.

    So well said again Ken. The bridge is supported by almost eight out of 10 Londoners according to a poll earlier this month, but public statements of support are important.

    Rob Leslie-Carter
    Director at Arup, and part of the Garden Bridge design team

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  • Both Ken and the Director from Arup are misunderstanding what some peoples objections are - its not about design - its much more important, its about democracy, openness and who owns the right to privatise a public space.

    Why doesn't the bridge have a public right of way? There is no reason to close it at night - lots of public London streets have trees and flower beds that need maintenance and the city is served by the best police force on the planet. Public rights of way can be temporarily closed under licence for 'private' fundraising events. There is no real need to stop cyclist either. The combination of the highway code, law of the land and common sense will do the job it does elsewhere on places like the Thames path that at times are only 2m wide and are shared spaces (with pedestrian priority)

    The whole thing is tail wagging dog that's why people don't like it - it has the feeling of an occupation of the space, a private invasion of the river rather than a welcome guest at the party on Thames. Yes you can build a bridge over our river, yes you can put some nice trees on it, and yes you can even have private events on it occasionally - but when we say you can (through normal council applications process) and we can use it all day and all night within the laws of the land.

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  • Both Will Jennings and Chris Medland are clear about the objectionable aspects of this project - aspects that some well respected personalities in the architectural world seem oddly incapable of comprehending.
    This is not so much a revolutionary piece of pioneering design as an eccentric imposition on the river that - in times past - would have been built across someone's ornamental lake in their private demesne, and might (or might not) have come to attract public admiration as a curiosity, a folly.

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  • Absolutely right, Mr Wakeham.

    This is NOT a design issue by any stretch of the imagination. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I will leave the design issues to those more qualified than. Personally, I think it IS rather beautiful, but what do I know.

    What I find despicable about this project is the realpolitik way in which it has been railroaded through planning and funding on strength of outright lies.

    It has NOT been funded as an object of beauty or as symbol of Britain's creativity. It has been funded as a transport link to "regenerate" the area around Temple tube station. It is, in fact, completely redundant as a transport link (thank you very much, Mr Shuttleworth, for YOUR wonderful bridge). And the idea that the area around Temple needs regenerating is, frankly, an affront to everyone living, working and breaking their backs to regenerate genuinely deprived parts of London and the UK.

    Even if it were true that there is something wrong with the area around Temple and Aldwych (which it isn't), consider what you are suggesting. Those are some of the most affluent and well-resourced landowners, developers, tenants and residents in the country, within one of the country's richest local authority areas. If they cannot -- between them -- improve their own public realm, then that is an abject failure of the Westminster Council, the North Bank BID and all of the local stakeholders involved. Should £60 million really come from the public purse to fix this problem for them? Please. Stop talking utter nonsense.

    One final point. The GBT and Heatherwick are masters of the false comparison. (1) This project completely subverts the lessons of the High Line. That was a garden that rescued an existing piece of infrastructure within a largely deprived part of Manhattan. This is the creation of a vast new piece of infrastructure to create a relatively small garden in a part of London that is already very rich. (2) They seem to forget that the London Eye was only consented for 5-years, so it was fully reversible if it went badly. More importantly, it was approved in the mid-1990s, when people were still liable to warn a tourist not to venture "south of the river" -- i.e. the London Eye, served a need and solved a problem. This Bridge does not.



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  • Mr Shuttleworth’s article could be summarised as such: ‘Oh, it’ll be pretty and you’ll like it when it’s done, and it’s only a few million so what the hell are you complaining about.’

    The issue at hand is not the design of the Garden Bridge itself (although it is rather cumbersome, not at all elegant or slender, and certainly not respectful of the heritage assets and views of the city beyond), but that of the defiant audacity with which its ‘creators’ are all willing to the hold the ‘party line’, formed through the necessity to create the illusion of a want, rather than to find a solution to a genuine need.

    What’s more, that this illusion requires the help of the hype of celebrity, and the rape of the public purse, at a time of genuine needs for housing and accessible public space in London, in return for just 6000sqm, at £29,000 a square metre, of polished nickel and bedding plants, is deplorable.

    The design Mr Shuttleworth refers to is not new, indeed it is a facsimile of the ‘1.4 mile New York High Line – a landscaped redundant viaduct which itself was inspired by Paris’s three mile Promenade Plantée completed in 1993 on the redundant viaduct from the Place de La Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes.’ So much for a statement of the creativity of London.

    Furthermore the case of ‘a genuine need for such a transport link’ is further brought into question through the procurement of an inexperienced bridge designer, who won against the countries most renowned bridge architects, and perhaps helped by Ms Lumley, who duly revealed in her ‘autobiography that the designer Thomas Heatherwick would be “happy to work on the bridge” – the river Thames crossing that the actor has long dreamed of. Her brief reference in the 2004 book to the designer “of incomparable originality” is among a series of curious details helping to drive mounting calls for an independent inquiry into how, almost a decade later, Heatherwick secured the contract to design Lumley’s £175m garden bridge.’

    The facts against the Garden Bridge were eloquently laid bare in Ian Ritchie’s article of last week, as well as others by Rowan Moore. Consequently they do not need repeating in full here.

    But the fact that the GBT has pulled out the ‘big guns’ this week in riposte to such articles serves only to publically reveal that the GBT is now perhaps nervous of its own reasoning. The more the ‘party line’ is stated, the more it wears thin, and the more ridiculous the ‘bridge will be free’ yet only open ‘6am until midnight’ statement becomes.

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  • Every single argument put forward by Mr Leslie Carter has been refuted time and time again and still they get repeated as though constant repetition will somehow make them true. What points more than anything to the unredeemable wrongness of this project is that it will be the only bridge in London that will have 24 hour security 365 days of the year to stop people using it. If that doesn’t tell the apologists there’s something badly wrong here then nothing will.

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  • Declare an interest, perlease, Mr Shuttleworth!

    Less than 100m from the site proposed for the Garbage Bridge a slender Seifert South Bank sister to Centre Point is being bulked up and extended skyward, with four mini towers added, all to transform a central London workspace employing 3,000 people into a skyhigh pile of safety deposit boxes for investors and launderers posing as high-end chi chi flats - all designed and delivered by Make, Mr Shuttleworth's own brand of transformative.

    But the most miserable part of Make's design is that the 11 extra greedy floors atop Seifert's tower will ensure that it will be very clearly seen from inside the courtyard at Somerset House - a fate Seifert carefully avoided - thereby completely wrecking a glorious and unique bit of supposedly protected London history right in the heart of the city.

    At least the Garbage Bridge's proponents admitted it would wreck views of Somerset House from the river, even if you would only have found that admission if you had got to volume 8 of the appendices to their Environmental Impact Assessment (maybe Rob Leslie-Carter should give it a read?).

    Make kept quiet about their destruction of the inside of Somerset House, and the clutz at English Heritage completely missed it until after permission was granted.

    So, no lessons in urbanity from you, perlease, Mr Shuttleworth!

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  • Every single argument put forward by Mr Leslie- Carter has been refuted time and time again and still they get repeated as though constant repetition will somehow make them true. What points more than anything to the unredeemable wrongness of this project is that it will be the only bridge in London that will have 24 hour security 365 days of the year to stop people using it. If that doesn’t tell the apologists there’s something badly wrong here then nothing will.

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