Thomas Heatherwick’s plant-covered Garden Bridge over London’s River Thames has moved a step closer to reality after the trust developing the project agreed a construction contract.
A joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA will be responsible for completing the design and construction the project, as well as planting the vegetation.
Work is planned to commence by Q3 2016 and to be completed in late 2018.
The project – which was first proposed by British actress Joanna Lumley – has been mired in controversy over the procurement process, which saw Heatherwick Studio’s vision selected over competing designs from Wilkinson Eyre and Marks Barfield.
According to an Architect’s Journal investigation, Heatherwick was present for several meetings with mayoral staff, including London mayor Boris Johnson, before the contest was held. Also doubts have been raised over the system used to select the design, and the amount of public money that will be spent on the project.
However, Johnson – who called the bridge “a stunning oasis of tranquillity in the heart of our city” – and the trust have remained resolute in their backing for the project.
Heatherwick first unveiled his design for the bridge in 2013. He claimed the project would allow Londoners to rediscover the “amazing piece of nature” that is the River Thames.
“There is now an opportunity to connect London together better, to give Londoners a huge improvement in the quality of pedestrian river crossing in this area, to allow us all to get closer to the river and at the same time to stimulate new regeneration possibilities at both ends where it lands,” he said.
Lumley added the bridge would be “sensational in every way: a place with no noise or traffic where the only sounds will be birdsong and bees buzzing and the wind in the trees, and below the steady rush of water”.
“The Garden Bridge is a reality,” said Lord Mervyn Davies, chair of the trust. “We are on course with our fundraising targets and we are meeting the requirements of our planning conditions.
“We have huge public support for the project and we look forward to working with Bouygues TP and Cimolai and all our partners to make this a special place to be enjoyed by Londoners and visitors in the heart of the city for years to come.”