There are plans, as I am sure you are aware for a pedestrian bridge across the Thames in the centre of the city, to be decked out in all sorts of greenery which is aimed to make it look terribly nice and pleasing.

I think a pedestrian bridge in that location is not a bad idea, and indeed in theory a green bridge is not a bad idea. But the two of them together is a very bad idea.

Pedestrian bridges are by dint of a lack of noxious noisy road vehicles a very enjoyable way to cross the river, just look at how the wobbly bridge helped tie the two sides of the river when it was opened.

However, also look at that bridge and notice how popular it is. It is very popular, and crowded, and people tend not to linger overly when walking across it.

Now, here is a concept image for the garden bridge.

Heatherwick_bridge_front_900x502

Honestly, that is nothing like wide enough for the passenger flow that it can be expected to carry. I would say that the pedestrian section needs to be three times wider — or more likely, the planting pushed back to the point that they are mere potted plant ornaments instead of being a core aspect of the design.

Not to forget that without walls to protect them, the plants along the edges will be flattened within days.

So, a garden bridge ends up, like so many of London’s gardens, being paved over and a few pot plants used to decorate it.

Sorry, but I simply cannot see this being viable.

But, let me drop an alternative idea into the pot (plant).

Fantasy architecture time…

There is a place where a huge pedestrian bridge could be built, where funding might be easier to raise, and where it could also radically transform the area.

The Battersea-Victoria Plaza Bridge

There is potential for a bridge to be created that is so big that it would have a floor space equivalent to two entire Trafalgar Squares. There could be some light cafes built right on to the bridge itself, and so wide is the bridge, that arts events can be a regular feature of the venue.

I tried making a mock-up image, but my photoshop skills are embarrassing!

Untitled-1

However, imagine the existing railway bridge with a simple flat roof raised above the railways, and a few light cafes erected in the centre. Hungerford Bridge style stairs and lifts at either side elevate people to the plaza-light bridge space.

Except, instead of the Hungerford Bridge hugging the sides of the railway with two slender beams, the Battersea-Victoria Plaza Bridge would span across the entire width of the existing railway lines. Not a narrow pedestrian strip across the river but a pedestrian space that would be wider than the M25 motorway.

Untitled-3Click to see a really batch sketch.

One one side is the regenerating Battersea power station and park and on the other Victoria and Pimlico. There is a decorative road bridge nearby, but the opportunity here is to tie the Battersea development into a huge river crossing with excellent views of the Power Station and along the river itself.

Not the easiest of constructions, with a functioning railway underneath — but equally not impossible. Just needs careful planning.

Thanks to the existing structure, the cost of the works would be reduced to elevating the bridge structure to carry the new roof/plaza, along with likely some structural strengthening in places.

So for probably not a significantly different sum of money compared to the Garden Bridge plans, London could gain a vast new open arena — and in a stunning location.

An arts and cultural space sitting right on top of the river — people would travel for that just as they do today to Trafalgar Square.

It could even have a decent amount of planting on top and be a real Garden Bridge.

Capital costs can be funded by the same model as the Garden Bridge, and how convenient to have a major developer spending oodles right on its doorstep. Running costs can be funded from the revenues from the cafe’s and renting out the floorspace to events.

Crazy idea, or worth thinking about?

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5 comments
  1. Myf says:

    Your idea reminds me of the Highline in New York. Agree about the width – when you think about pushchairs, wheelchairs and justgroups of friends wanting to walk two or more abreast, it does look narrow.

  2. Steve says:

    I don’t see how yet another bridge in central london can be justified by londoners not wanting to walk 0.2 miles, when there is a 5 mile stretch between hampton and walton that has been begging for a new pedestrian crossing for years.

    • IanVisits says:

      I’m sure there’s nothing stopping people proposing such a bridge and raising the money then putting it to public consultation to be built — just as the Garden Bridge is doing.

  3. Petras409 says:

    Nice idea, but Network Rail are entitled to collect air rights at a high financial rate from anything that crosses a railway line (eg a new road bridge) from its owner/developer. Imagine the preposterously high charge they would want to extract from a non-commercial structure covering all those tracks for all that length.

    And they would also find access for cranes to lift the track would be hampered – not a show stopper though, as they have to change the track in tunnels from time to time.

  4. Mike says:

    The other thing I don’t like about about the Thames Garden Bridge is that it has the potential to block the views of the city from the South Bank or the Hungerford and waterloo bridges…I quite like the view from Waterloo bridge!

    But your idea for the Battersea rail bridge is genious….

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