A Garden Bridge for London - the best job in the capital

Garden Bridge for London

In spite of their potential for romance and the promise of crossing to new lands, they are heavy things bridges; heavy, and sometimes dull, writes Paul Morrell, a trustee of the Garden Bridge Trust.

A conspiracy between span, load and economics rarely lets the designer’s imagination fly. And even when the removal of vehicles lightens the load, pedestrian bridges are too often a one trick pony: the Calatrava-style “bridge on a stick” which every town once seemed to regard as a badge of honour or a bow and its string, tilted at a jaunty angle; or possibly a wishbone - until economics strikes again, and it remains all wish and no bones.

The concept of a garden floating across the Thames began, almost as a dream, in the mind of the dreamy Joanna Lumley.  Thereafter, it has become the very model of a “dreams to reality” project.

So we can celebrate their beauty (and please let’s do that, as a blessed relief from the straight beam and slab), but there can sometimes can be a slight sense of “so what?” once the novelty has worn off.

But now for something completely different: a living bridge with no buildings, just people and plants. A Garden Bridge - or, in the title of a programme currently running at the Siobhan Davies Dance Company that I’m privileged to chair, “Human Nature” writ large. 

The concept of a garden floating across the Thames began, almost as a dream, in the mind of the dreamy Joanna Lumley.  Thereafter, it has become the very model of a “dreams to reality” project. 

First, the concept needed to be modelled into three dimensions - and at that point things could have started to go wrong, of course. But that was never going to happen when the designer that Joanna took the idea to was Thomas Heatherwick, who gave us that magical Olympic Cauldron which, on that July 2012 evening, made us say “Oh yes” out loud, and feel proud - even though all that most of us had done was watch it on telly.


The Garden Bridge Trustees are now seeking a directly employed Project Director to oversee the detailed design and delivery of the Bridge, due for completion in 2018.  The successful candidate will have proven experience of leading major engineering projects with a high level of personal responsibility, and with good organisation and communication skills.

Please apply in confidence, with CV and note of current/expected salary, to Bee Emmott, Garden Bridge Trust, Somerset House, London, WC2R 1LA or bee@gardenbridgetrust.org.

All that the Garden Bridge has in common with that is the same magic, conjured by Thomas working hand in glove with garden designer Dan Pearson; and, we confidently anticipate, overwhelmingly the same public reaction. 

The challenge now is to keep that flame burning through the necessary but grinding processes it takes to get anything built in this country.

That means setting up an effective client body (as to set up a long-term operation and management plan, so that the Bridge stands as a sustainable undertaking on completion); gaining all the necessary consents, and reaching agreement with landowners, neighbours and other stakeholders whose support for the project is genuine but conditional

Then developing the detailed design, and finding the right procurement route for a market in which contractors now have many opportunities to choose between; designing an outreach programme, offering opportunities for participation and training, and embedding the project in the community.

And then there’s the little a matter of building it and getting it open to receive a public throng that is in a hurry to take advantage of what, if they so choose, can be the slowest possible way to cross the river.

Responsibility for much of this will fall to a Project Director to be appointed by the Trust (see job advert), so if carrying the torch is your kind of thing, and you have a record of delivering successful projects, what better use could be made of your skills?

Engineering with a sparkle, and the best job in London. Magic.