passport to pimlico: 2015

scheme 025 of the Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge competition

Found this image in a list of what someone thought were the more interesting entries in the Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge competition for a pedestrian and bike bridge across the Thames from an old district to a rebuilt old district now covered in glass towers.  This scheme, 025, presents itself as a Turner painting, a minimalist way of crossing the river, everything thinned to fragility. In true modernist fashion, the differences in the two sides of the river are neither exacerbated or promoted; the bridge is an instrument of locomotion, functional within an engineering context, which is a long, rich and exciting history.

After looking at the rest of the submissions, here, I became very depressed. Except for a few, they are the worst of some first-year studio exercise in a not very good architecture school. Open competitions are always interesting for they give one a register of current architectural conversations and the degree to which the architects and designers who enter the competition are in touch with some of the more rarified levels of the discourse. 

Increasingly, the 'discourse' as practiced in the schools and critical journals does not seem to reach any other level, especially not the levels that actually do design things.  Or even pretend to design things by showing a shallow idea drawn by software that accurately puts reflections of said bridge on the river in all weathers. Even if not a blueblood modernist, the agonies of post-modernism are also missing. Where is the deep context for most of these proposals? Whatever it is, it is abstracted as a meaningless background to The Object: The Bridge.  Why am I depressed?  Because this is a conversation that has been played out for the entirely of my now-long career. It never seems to move on. All the work I have done, all that I have taught and written about, has been totally ineffective, because although this is Nine Elms to Pimlico, my own small Canadian city is also engaged in the acrobatic pedestrian bridge as the locus for civic creativity, with similarly irrelevant results. 

I'll have scheme 025, above, please, but I doubt it will be the one chosen. 

Stephanie Whitebridges