Images via Garden Bridge Trust

London’s Epic ‘Garden Bridge’ to Beautify the Thames

The capital of England is known for its impeccably-clean transportation and defining names like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, but three years from now London will be known for something else quite exquisite: a 366-meter-long Garden Bridge that will link the city’s North and South Bank.

Bridges around the world have become central vessels of transportation, yet no matter how architecturally-astounding they may appear, their beauty typically comes with echoing car horns, the smell of exhaust, and (as a direct result of these indecencies) a hefty dose of pollution. But London’s forthcoming Garden Bridge Project stands apart from that norm, proving that it’s possible to beautify commuter spaces, increase oxygen levels through increased efforts to plant trees and shrubs in public spaces, and to educate the masses about the value of nature while still ushering people from point A to point B. If all goes according to plan, the Garden Bridge will become an iconic first date attraction and an ecological must-see, all while providing London with more secure jobs as the bridge will need to be staffed for 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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What began as a £60 million project in the heart of England’s capital city has quickly grown to a whopping £175 million feat– a bridge that, according to early reports, will be “clad in 2mm copper-nickel skin” engineered to prevent corrosion. While efforts to see even a rendering of the Garden Bridge into fruition have taken a sea of corporate organizations and individual support– as well as a cosign from the Mayor of London, Her Majesty, countless philanthropic institutions, and the community that will ultimately make this dream into a reality, the Garden Bridge project began as the vision of one motivated upstart— Joanna Lumley.

Readers may know Lumley from her role as “Aunt Emma” in The Wolf of Wall Street— or perhaps as Patsy in the British TV series “Absolutely Fabulous”. But when she’s not getting cast in The New Avengers she is working with Thomas Heatherwick (the bridge designer), Dan Pearson (the garden designer), and Arup (the bridge engineer and lead consultant) to see that the Garden Bridge comes to life. Back in 1998 Lumley conceived of the idea as a memorial for Princess Diana, but soon the many environmental advantages were realized: upon completion the Garden Bridge will create an environmental landmark boasting 270 new trees, 1,650 shrubs, countless hedging plants and climbers, 27,000 perennials, numerous ferns and grasses, and 72,000 bulbs.

Garden Bridge_Walkway View_CREDIT_Arup

The annual cost for the bridge is an expected £3.5m, all of which will go towards operations and maintenance costs for the bridge to stay open for 126 hours each week. The time that has preemptively been dedicated to the endeavor reflects what Harry Zelenka Martin, a Communication Officer of the Garden Bridge Trust, refers to as “the high level of commitment to operations, cleaning, and security that all stakeholders expect”.

“There is a sinking fund allowance to enable the Trust to budget and provide for the timely renewal of assets as they reach their life expectancy, which will ensure high quality service as a result.” This, in turn, means well-maintained gardens that reflect that health and variety of the native English landscape. “There are also allowances for misuse, abuse, theft, and damage to fixtures and plantings,” he continued, acknowledging that possibility for the public, if left unchecked, to occasionally misuse the space. Twelve days out of every year, the bridge will be blocked off to the public in order for the trust to hold fundraising and community events in the space. These events will in turn provide educational and volunteer opportunities while generating funds to subsidize annual maintenance costs.

Garden Bridge_Underbridge View_CREDIT_Arup

“The bridge will contribute to, enhance and enrich the existing environmental habitats and has the opportunity to act as an educational environment for visitors and local communities to explore the benefits of green infrastructure,” Martin surmises. “The Trust is working with a number of institutions across London to develop these opportunities for people of all ages. Planting and construction contractors will work alongside these partners to develop a fully-integrated plan, which will seek to educate and inspire people’s appreciation of horticulture, engineering, the environment, and much more”.

For updates on London’s “Garden Bridge”, which as of this writing is set for completion in 2018, subscribe to the Garden Bridge news and updates page here.

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