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Plans for Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge officially abandoned

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The Garden Bridge Trust has announced the controversial project has been officially abandoned after failing to raise the private funds for it to be completed. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick’s architecture studio with engineers Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson, the bridge was originally announced in 2013 but came under fire for its rising cost and plans for its use.

At least £37.4 million of public money has already been spent on the project. In April the London mayor Sadiq Khan withdrew support for its construction, sending an open letter to the trust saying he didn’t believe it could overcome “significant hurdles” before its planning permission expired in December 2017.

The trust, a charity established to build and run the bridge, announced today 14 August 2017 that it would be “winding up” the project due to lack of support from the mayor.

Lord Davies, head of the trust, said in a statement: "We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality and that the Mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us. We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards the project.

“The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation. It is all the more disappointing because the trust was set up at the request of TfL, the organisation headed up by the Mayor, to deliver the project. It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.”

Sadiq Khan said in response to the closure of the project: “It’s my duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly. Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge – including a funding gap of over £70 million, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money – I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on it.

“I have been clear since before I became mayor that no more London taxpayers’ money should be spent on this project and when I took office I gave the Garden Bridge Trust time to try and address the multiple serious issues with it.

“Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds – committed by the previous mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing.”

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Talking with architect Rachel Armstrong sends an adrenaline shot to the imagination. In one sentence, she will take you from quantum mechanics to Neo-Darwinian ethics to futuristic homes that gurgle like a stomach – all in the space of answering a single question. You leave the conversation dizzy with the future, and the world brims with new possibility around you.

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“I’m not confident enough to know what to throw away and what to keep. I’m not a good ‘thrower awayer.’ I’d hate to regret not having kept something,” says Thomas Heatherwick, gesturing around his studio. “At least if you hang on to things, you can hopefully find that you kept the right bit.” We are sat at the heart of his King’s Cross office in North London. There’s an air of intense industry around us and the studio is engaged on an astonishing number of projects the world over. But today we aren’t here to discuss what the future holds, it’s what lies, quite literally, beneath us. On the floor below where we are sat is an archive of the studio’s work that comprises models, maquettes and ephemera that tell remarkable stories of invention, innovation and happy accidents. “I suppose I don’t think of it as an archive, I think of it as not throwing things away,” he explains. “That’s a big not throwing things away space. We do endeavour to try and make special things and if you are trying to do that, then the process would matter too. It amazes me how many people throw things away. Whether that is a deliberate rejection of anything that isn’t current, or it’s laziness, or a clever focusing of energy and resource, I don’t know.”

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New York architecture studio SO-IL has designed Breathe, an installation for British brand MINI at Milan’s Salone del Mobile exploring the future of urban living. Within a compact footprint of five metres wide by ten metres tall, the installation is contained within a transparent, flexible outer skin that filters the air while allowing natural light to enter the interior. 

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As the dust settled on London Design Festival, James Darton, on behalf of Freunde von Freunden joined Asif Khan for a stroll around his home borough Hackney to discuss the architect’s life, work and the three Shoreditch-based installations — Relax, Connect and Create — that Asif designed for MINI Living. The full article is published here.

It makes a perfect sort of sense then that a journey into the life and work of London-­based architect Asif Khan should also take the form of a walk around the city he has lived in his entire life.

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