One thing that stuck out to me while in London was the amount of construction going on. It seemed like everywhere I went in the city there were cranes and/or something was being built, and I didn’t go anywhere near any of the sites for the Olympics. While on the bridges, cranes could often be seen at a distance, but the Blackfriars Bridge seemed to be in the heart of a construction area.
Cranes can be seen on the southern shore in the first image above. The downriver view from the bridge was completely blocked and will remain blocked by “London’s first station to span the Thames.” At first I find this very annoying, as I think there would be a good view of the city looking downstream from Blackfriars Bridge. However, building a station over the Thames is actually an interesting idea. In a city as dense as London there isn’t much room for expansion. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere else this close to the heart of the city to build a new large station. The rail website explains that this station, which is being built on top of a Victorian railway bridge, will allow for longer commuter trains and improve access to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theater. Another piece of note about the bridge is that it is being fully equipped with solar panels and will be the longest solar bridge in the world. Apparently, the competition for the title “World’s Longest Solar Bridge” is not particularly tough at the moment as there is only one other known solar bridge in the world which is the pedestrian Kurilpa Bridge in Australia.
My favorite part about this revamped railway bridge is that it challenges the function of a bridge. Today, most bridges function simply as a way to get from point A to point B. One exception to this is the Galata Bridge in Istanbul (see June 25 post). I remember seeing and using a bridge in Bath, England, when I was a kid that had shops on both sides so that you couldn’t even tell you were on a bridge while crossing it. Bridges like this seem to have been popular in medieval Europe. In a class I took on the history of cities, we looked at medieval Paris which had multiple bridges with buildings lining both sides. Perhaps with the invention of transportation technologies that permit sprawling cities, there is no reason to use bridges as anything more than a connector.
I suppose if there were more bridges with mixed functions like carrying shops as well as roads, then there would be less great views, still it’s an interesting concept. Bridges often end up adding to the dead space of a city, but this might be more because of what they connect than because of their function to move people along.