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.

 
 
 
 

Tackling toxic air in our cities is also a matter of social justice

Oh, lovely. Image: Getty.

Clean Air Zones are often dismissed by critics as socially unfair. The thinking goes that charging older and more polluting private cars will disproportionately impact lower income households who cannot afford expensive cleaner alternatives such as electric vehicles.

But this argument doesn’t consider who is most affected by polluted air. When comparing the latest deprivation data to nitrogen dioxide background concentration data, the relationship is clear: the most polluted areas are also disproportionately poorer.

In UK cities, 16 per cent of people living in the most polluted areas also live in one of the top 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods, against 2 per cent who live in the least deprived areas.

The graph below shows the average background concentration of NO2 compared against neighbourhoods ranked by deprivation. For all English cities in aggregate, pollution levels rise as neighbourhoods become more deprived (although interestingly this pattern doesn’t hold for more rural areas).

Average NO2 concentration and deprivation levels. Source: IMD, MHCLG (2019); background mapping for local authorities, Defra (2019).

The graph also shows the cities in which the gap in pollution concentration between the most and the least deprived areas is the highest, which includes some of the UK’s largest urban areas.  In Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham, there is a respective 46, 42 and 33 per cent difference in NO2 concentration between the poorest and the wealthiest areas – almost double the national urban average gap, at around 26 per cent.

One possible explanation for these inequalities in exposure to toxic air is that low-income people are more likely to live near busy roads. Our data on roadside pollution suggests that, in London, 50 per cent of roads located in the most deprived areas are above legal limits, against 4 per cent in the least deprived. In a number of large cities (Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield), none of the roads located in the least deprived areas are estimated to be breaching legal limits.

This has a knock-on impact on health. Poor quality air is known to cause health issues such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and asthma. Given the particularly poor quality of air in deprived areas, this is likely to contribute to the gap in health and life expectancy inequalities as well as economic ones between neighbourhoods.


The financial impact of policies such as clean air zones on poorer people is a valid concern. But it is not a justifiable reason for inaction. Mitigating policies such as scrappage schemes, which have been put in place in London, can deal with the former concern while still targeting an issue that disproportionately affects the poor.

As the Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook report showed, people are dying across the country as a result of the air that they breathe. Clean air zones are one of a number of policies that cities can use to help reduce this, with benefits for their poorer residents in particular.

Valentine Quinio is a researcher at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this post first appeared.