The Thames is a solution in search of a problemby Ben Rogers / February 22, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
The Thames is London’s raison d’être. When Transport for London took the river off the Tube map, public outcry forced it to re-install the elegant symbol at the heart of Harry Beck’s design. But despite this attachment to the river, Londoners have long felt unsure about what to do with it.
Globally, industrial cities have struggled with the legacy of redundant waterside industrial developments. But London has struggled more than most. The Thames is a difficult river. It is fast, wide and dangerous—at least 30 bodies are pulled out of the water passing through London every year, and its five to seven metre tidal rise and fall makes it much less tame than the Seine, let alone the canals of Venice, waterways with which the Thames is often compared. When architects and planners draw the Thames, they tend to show it as a sunny Mediterranean blue, with tugs and sailing boats for decorative effect, but the water is naturally a murky brown.
The governance of the Thames is a characteristically English muddle. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, made a bid to develop a policy for the river when David Cameron was elected—but nothing came of it.