The 12 most ridiculous designs for the new Battersea bridge

So. Many. Questions. Image: Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge competition.

Update 17/3: The four shortlisted designs have now been announced - scoll down to the bottom to see which made it through.

London, it seems, is about to get a new bridge. Not the Garden Bridge: since that'll be closed to cyclists, and barely open to pedestrians, we're not really counting that as a bridge. No, the new river crossing we're talking about is the one that'll connect the Nine Elms development with Pimlico across the Thames.

To select a design for the new bridge the council has held a competition. This, if the 74 renderings released on the competition's website today are anything to go by, aimed to select the most inspiring, most beautiful, and most totally batshit crazy design for a bridge it possibly could. 

1. The one which is definitely not a bridge

Helpful tip for architects: you can't just draw squares on a photo and call it a design. 

2. The one like a nightmarish Escher painting

Where does the floor end? Where do those stairs go? Why are the people so small? Why are the leaves transparent? Are those boys about to drown??

3. The one that's a spoon  

A touching tribute to London's culinary culture. Also, apparently, a permanent rainbow. 

4. The one that could water your lawn

It's the Millenium Bridge with sprinklers attached.

5. The one with all the fairylights

"How can we spice this up? Let's cover it in glittery lights, like the room of an 18-year-old university student on a budget."  

6. The one inspired by Windows Media Player visualisations

We're pretty sure this is the intro to a mid-noughties Ed Sheeran song. 

7. The one that's a circle

Because why cross the river directly when you could go on a 200m diversion? After all, it's the journey that counts, not the destination. Unless you're going to work, or home, or anywhere else vaguely important. 

8. The dumbbell 

We get it, it's so the cyclists don't have to carry their bikes down the stairs. But it just looks silly. 

9. The one with the segregation

Cyclists and pedestrians, kept apart as they should be. There's something oddly touching about those people desperately trying to scale the wall, though. 

10. The one that's a scribble 

No idea. Literally, none.

11. The one with the... thing  

What even is that? A lift? A furnace? We're hoping the bit on the right is a pedestrian catapult, and those tunnels are filled with cushions.

12. The one which will turn all of London to wood 

A magic bridge.

...And a bonus one (definitely not necessitated by the fact that we can't count):

The one that takes you back to the 1800s 

It's an ambitious project, certainly.

Upadate 17/3: The shortlisted designs, along with the designers in question, have now been announced. Sadly, all four look pretty normal compard to the designs listed above.

1. The one supported by a pair of chopsticks - Marks Barfield Architects

2. The one where it's too misty to see anything - Robin Snell & Partners

3. The one that's a long and winding road - AL_A 

 

4. The one with the pretty bows - Hoskins Architects


The four winning teams will now further develop their proposals before resubmitting them for judging, and a winner should be announced in the autumn. 

All images courtesy of the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge competition.

 
 
 
 

Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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