New competition to design folly using £60m of public funding

Opponents of the Garden Bridge across the Thames have launched a design competition for a rival “folly”.

The tongue-in-cheek Folly for London competition is open to architects or anyone with an “equally absurd” idea for the site on the South Bank where Thomas Heatherwick’s bridge is due to land.

The competition budget is £60 million - the amount of public money earmarked for the bridge by by TfL and the Treasury.

It is the brainchild of artist Will Jennings who said any potential design would need to take up as much space as possible, use environmentally damaging materials, obstruct as many key views of public landmarks as possible, and aim to raise house prices in the local area by around 100%.

The satirical competition has been designed to poke fun at the real Garden Bridge and was timed to co-incide with a fundraising event for the Garden Bridge at Harrods.

Jennings launched the competition in conjunction with the Thames Central Open Spaces, the main group campaigning to halt the Garden Bridge. The judges will include architectural writer Owen Hatherley.

A statement outlining the project said: “Your idea could be a monumental folly which serves no purpose other than ego and waste: a coin tower made up of £6 billion penny pieces, or a towering statue of Joanna Lumley and Boris Johnson embracing.

“Perhaps you could mash together different functions which aren’t suitable for the site; a penthouse bus garage. Let your creativity run wild, without bounds of practicality, sense or logic. Your idea need not be grounded in what is feasible, practical, sensible or rational. We are not judging on what technology or engineering is practical or workable.

“While we will invite crazy, ridiculous and satirically nonsensical projects and ask people to explore their own creativity and ideas, this project aims to raise awareness of the genuine absurdity of the Garden Bridge alongside aesthetic threats to the city, financial repurcussions and flaws in the democratic process.”

Jennings stressed he was not criticising Heatherwick himself, saying: “I have a lot of time for his designs, his creativity and the energy he has put into increasing interest in good architecture and design.”.

But he said the technology was “untested and potentially flawed”. “The B of the Bang sculpture in Manchester shed deadly javelin spikes and was removed, the Blue Carpet in Newcastle is a moribund grey and the new bus for London overheats without windows or air-con,” he said. “The risk here is this untested technology will fail, like the first generations of living walls, and we will be left with a vast failing garden with huge costs to maintain.”

Heatherwick Studios declined to comment.

Details of how to enter will be on A Folly for London.