The Garden Bridge is not London’s answer to the New York High Line

Surely the charm of the Thames is its scale and the remarkable views. Planting beds, deep enough to accommodate 270 trees up to 15m high, are elegantly disguised within the depth of radiating wedge segments that make up the bridge’s two piers. Projections of visitor numbers suggest that the Garden Bridge would add another 3.5 million annual visitors, an 18 per cent increase on current numbers. Such projects would bolster London’s threatened high streets and bring urban greening to the outer boroughs, cementing London’s status as a global city by strengthening its neighbourhoods. Its planning application states that ‘the iconic nature of the design, the new viewpoints it will create and the inherent attractiveness of a high-quality landscaped open space will create a popular visitor attraction that will support London’s world city role’.Is this what London most needs? Pearson proposes five planting character areas – pioneer, wild glade, scarp, cultivated glade and leafy – across the bridge’s 366m length. A park full of trees on a new bridge over the Thames is a very different proposition.The Garden Bridge jumps through incredible hoops to create a park on a bridge. Cross-river connections are more urgent both east at Rotherhithe and west at burgeoning Nine Elms.What is most concerning about this bridge is that its main driver is to create a horticultural visitor attraction, not a connected piece of city.   This exposed location is not the place for a manicured park.I’m all for more connectivity across the Thames, but Queen’s Walk to Temple is not where it’s most needed. Foster + Partners’ Millennium Bridge and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ Hungerford footbridges celebrate that vastness. Email


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Save The images promoting the Garden Bridge are no exception, showing a New York High Line-inspired public thoroughfare with ravishing planting in the capable hands of garden designer Dan Pearson.But comparing it to the New York scheme is spurious. Contrast the Garden Bridge with Grant Associates’ thoughtful proposal for the public realm of Westminster’s Church Street Market (page 50), this year’s winner in the Landscape Institute’s ‘neighbourhood planning’ category.

Updated: 01.12.2014 — 15:53