Landscaped ‘islands’ could be built on existing Blackfriars piers

A second architect has drawn up a cut-price alternative to Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge which would create a series of landscaped “stepping stones” across the river.

Crispin Wride’s proposal, which he has sent to Sadiq Khan, uses redundant piers already standing in the river between Blackfriars road and railway bridges. The structure, which he calls Blackfriars Garden Islands Bridge, would also be attached to those two crossings.

Four leaf-shaped “islands” would be linked by a simple walkway but could also be accessed individually from the road bridge, creating multiple potential routes across the river.

Each 45m x 30m platform could have its own identity and could contain small kiosks housing cafes or galleries, he said.

Wride, who started his career working for Denys Lasdun and later worked with Peter Foggo on Broadgate, said his proposal would cost a fraction of Heatherwick’s £175 million project.

“More importantly, it would create a dynamic new experience of crossing the river, not a continuous uneventful route from one side to the other but a series of linked garden islands and pavilions,” he said.

“This would enhance the existing awkward space left between the road and rail bridges at Blackfriars and add four new spectacular public spaces for London, poised above the River Thames.”

It would also allow individual islands to be shut for events without the whole route being closed, a criticism levelled against the Garden Bridge. Wride said Heatherwick’s design failed as a concept because of this.

Wride set up his own practice last year after nearly four decades working for others, most recently as design director of Jacobs, the multi-disciplinary giant.

He got the idea for reusing the abandoned piers – which once held the London Chatham Dover Railway – while designing Blackfriars station’s north bank entrance hall.

He also worked on an entry for London’s Millennium Bridge competition – ultimately won by Foster & Partners – which featured an elliptical public space at the centre.

Wride’s proposal builds on another Garden Bridge alternative put forward by Allies & Morrison partner Artur Carulla. He suggested planting one side of Blackfriars road bridge to create a garden without the cost of building a bridge.

Wride acknowledged this would be even cheaper, but said it did not address the Garden Bridge Trust’s vision of providing a dynamic new experience of crossing the river.

He collaborated with OPS Structural Engineering but has not had the scheme costed yet.