London is in the throes of an architectural identity crisis, compounded by a severe shortage of housing. While politicians and public figures debate various solutions to the city's design dilemmas, a London-based artist has conceived of a "satirical competition for architecture of the absurd." Known as A Folly for London, the free open-call for solutions to London's architectural conundrums was created in response to Arup and Heatherwick Studio's proposal for the yet to be built, and highly controversial, Garden Bridge.
Unlike traditional architectural competitions, A Folly for London sought to ignite debate on the current state of architecture in London. Presented with a distinctly British sense of humour, the competition received more than fifty entries. Winning proposals include the systematic burning of London's forests, construction of a massive inhabitable light bulb and the creation of a catacomb of submerged signature double-decker buses at the centre of the River Thames.
See the winners of "A Folly for London" after the break
Tasked to "propose an alternative but equally ridiculous project for the public space being lost to the proposed Garden Bridge," the competition became a comical emblem for London's growing discontent with the government-backed bridge. The results run the gamut of absurdity, including an entry that proposes the construction of a public park atop a giant mold of the Mayor of London's head. By placing the Garden Bridge in the context of distinctly inappropriate proposals, participants hope to shed new light on what they see as the bizarre nature of the accepted bridge proposal. Three particularly outlandish entries have been selected as the winners for their humorous adaptations of current socioeconomic, political and environmental challenges facing the City of London.
Winner: The Green Fire of London / Ben Weir
Built on an enormous monolithic steel jetty abrasively dividing the Thames, London's eternal flame burns green. Green, that is, from the city's many public parks razed to sustain the demanding fire. Fortunately for developers, London's eternal tree-fuelled flame frees up crucial wasted green space for the creation of more "narcissistic phallic towers, helping to crowd the skyline and ruin vistas across the city." This winning idea produces a constant stream of billowing smoke to obscure London's crane-filled skyline — a visual byproduct of overdevelopment. Adjacent to the flame, London's south bank will become a storage facility for cranes: an essential component in a development-driven economy.
The Green Fire of London touches on numerous issues facing London, namely the unbridled power and political influence wielded by the city's private development sector. The proposal serves as a comment on the efforts of Thomas Heatherwick and British celebrity Joanna Lumley to convince the London to move forward with the project despite their lack of elected authority. Furthermore, Weir has likened the construction of the Garden Bridge to the destruction of existing green space through the wasteful construction of an essentially private bridge constructed with public funds.
Runner Up 1: Floating Tidal Exploded Bus Maze / Chris Doray Studio
Shortly after the initial announcement, it was revealed that the Garden Bridge would only be accessible between certain hours, therefore diminishing its usefulness as a pedestrian pathway. Through the cheeky dissection of Heatherwick's new London Routemaster bus, Floating Tidal Exploded Bus Maze pokes fun at the exclusive non-functional nature of the Garden Bridge without actually providing a means to cross the Thames.
Similar to a theme park, the Garden Bridge is envisioned as an autonomous landmark designed to reinvigorate the surrounding area. Floating Tidal Exploded Bus Maze takes the notion of a landmark to the extreme, using "locally sourced" buses to construct a maze to house London's elite. Illustrations for the project allude to an insatiable need for spending by London's government: "After the abandonment of the Garden Bridge, we had to throw money at something...this was the most logical step," comments a bystander, as the Queen strolls with Prince Charles nearby.
Runner Up 2: Bulb / Anthropophagic Architecture Anonymous (AAA)
Touted as the "solution to London's housing crisis," the Bulb will "liberate" land currently occupied by social housing in favor of private development to provide an immediate infusion of money into London's economy. The Bulb will become a mobile home to 200,000 recently evicted residents of social housing, manoeuvred by a wheel and track system installed above the Thames. Envisioned as a voyeuristic look into London's middle class, the Bulb will operate on a philosophy of unconditional sharing: there will be no privacy, no personal goods. In fact, the Bulb would be equipped with a closed circuit television system connected to an exhibition space where the public can observe internal goings-on.
Created as an examination of British social housing and surveillance cultures, the Bulb violates the rights and freedoms of residents in the name of capitalism. As London faces a dire shortage of affordable housing, the architects propose a tower built of clay excavated from the city's massive Crossrail infrastructure project - another notoriously expensive taypayer-funded project. The removal of privacy serves as a commentary on Britain's role in the development of a surveillance-obsessed culture (the country is reportedly home to 10% of the world's CCTV cameras). A project with nearly too many objectionable qualities to mention, the Bulb promises a 400% profit along with 4 million visitors per year to the tower.
What do you think of the winning entries for A Folly for London? Let us know in the comments below.