A sharper—and very unflattering—portrait is emerging of the lobbying behind a proposed $265M London Bridge designed by Thomas Heatherwick. In late April, we reported that the project had been halted by a judicial review to determine whether long-term maintenance funds had been secured and historic preservation had been duly considered (the bridge may obstruct views, for example). Now, new revelations suggest Joanna Lumley, actress and trustee of the organization lobbying the bridge, selected Heatherwick early on and guided him to win the contract.
A 2012 letter, obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Architect's Journal, reveals that when Lumley began lobbying London Mayor Boris Johnson—an acquaintance since childhood, which, she says, makes him "largely quite amenable"—she brought Heatherwick to the meeting. Her choice of Heatherwick is not so surprising, given that Lumley cites him as a designer "of incomparable originality" in her 2004 autobiography. Heatherwick's studio then appeared on a government list of preferred contractors alongside firms with vastly more experience in bridge design. Not only did Heatherwick score higher in the crucial "relevant design experience" category, but Lumley was named as an "associate" in the studio's official brochure submission.
Now architects, artists, and public figures alike are chiming in, and the commentary is mixed at best and acrid at worst. A full audit has been ordered and the judicial review is set to take place on either June 10 or 11.