News: British designer Thomas Heatherwick has revealed new images of his proposed Garden Bridge across London's River Thames, which is now scheduled for completion in 2017 (+ slideshow).
Heatherwick Studio is working alongside engineers Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson on the £150 million plans, proposing a pedestrian bridge covered in trees and shrubs to span the river between South Bank and Covent Garden. A public consultation on the latest designs was launched on Friday, ahead of an expected planning application in early 2014.
The 367-metre bridge will feature two fluted piers, supporting a promenade that splits into two and is interspersed with benches and indigenous plants.
"London is where it is because of the river Thames. But over many years the human experience of this amazing piece of nature has been marginalised by successive transport moves," said Heatherwick, who also redesigned the city's iconic routemaster bus.
"The city on the north bank and the historic district of Temple is almost completely isolated from the river by the dual carriageway of the Victoria Embankment that slices it's way along the north bank and other than its wonderful view, Waterloo Bridge is surprisingly unfriendly for pedestrians."
"There is now an opportunity to connect London together better, to give Londoners a huge improvement in the quality of pedestrian river crossing in this area, to allow us all to get closer to the river and at the same time to stimulate new regeneration possibilities at both ends where it lands," he added.
A charitable organisation named The Garden Bridge Trust has been created to drive forward the project and organise fundraising. It is chaired by Mervyn Davies, the former government minister who oversaw Heatherwick's UK pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.
"This is the first major milestone for the project and marks a very clear intent to create a new landmark for London," said Davies. "The scheme has been shaped and developed into a proposal that will contribute significantly to the future of London's development and we are committed to ensuring The Garden Bridge will be something that London can be proud of."
Heatherwick was awarded a tender by government body Transport for London earlier this year to develop ideas for improving pedestrian links across the river. The design derives from a concept by actress Joanna Lumley for a new park in central London.
"I believe that the combination of Transport for London's brief for a new river crossing and Joanna Lumley's inspiration for a new kind of garden will offer Londoners an extraordinary new experience in the heart of this incredible city," said Heatherwick.
Construction of the bridge is anticipated to begin in 2015.