London recently received the “go ahead” from a local borough council to construct the Garden Bridge – a towering walkway that’s expected to rival New York City’s Highline. The project, anticipated to cost £175 million ($272.8 million), now needs the green light from the city’s major in order to proceed with its construction late next year.
For many, the potential of the Garden Bridge is certainly alluring; all around the world, different cities have attempted to emulate the same elevated structure of the High Line, which ingeniously reinvented abandoned train tracks into an overhead park. London’s proposed version will be erected above the Thames River, where it will support 270 trees, a wide array of plant life and over 2 million pounds of dirt.
The idea was originally developed by British actress Joanna Lumley in 1998, as a memorial to Princess Diana. If all goes according to plan, the walkway will be opened to the public from 6am to midnight, as soon as 2018. Thomas Heatherwick, the designer behind the 2012 Olympic cauldron and London’s renovated double-decker buses, will be heading the project.
Yet, as successful as the High Line is, many are still wary of replicating the same concept in London. For starters, part of the £175 million that is needed for its construction will come from public funds that some argue may be better utilized in affordable housing or transport infrastructure. It will also link two neighborhoods, Temple and South Bank, that do not need to be revitalized.
Furthermore, the Waterloo Community Development Group is concerned with the practicability and safety of the bridge. Overcrowding, Director Michael Ball warns, can result in another “Hillsborough disaster”, in which 96 football fans were crushed to death in an overcrowded stadium in 1989. Restrictions on bicycling and nighttime visits, as well as the possibility of an entrance fee may also deter many Londoners from visiting the park in general.
Others seem to outwardly reject the comparison to the High Line completely, stating that the Garden Bridge would be an entirely new and expensive construction, rather than a revamped version of an existing, but disused structure.