Opposite the City of London, there was huge development in the late 20th century. The new Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, long-planned, was rebuilt on the shores of the South Bank and opened in 1997. This was and is a huge tourist attraction, even to those who only want to stand and stare at its thatched roof, contrasting as it does so thoroughly with the other buildings around it. Also, the old Bankside Power Station site has become the Tate Modern, again a huge attraction with thousands of visitors each day, especially as so much of it is free and the coffee is excellent. Opened in May 2000 it attracted 5,000,000 visitors in its first 5 years, many of them crossing on foot from the city, having arrived via Tube ( Blackfriars, St Paul’s and Mansion House) rail ( Blackfriars) and bus. Then there are the longer-established attractions of the Southbank – from markets to theatres and restaurants.
The London Millennium footbridge was an idea waiting to happen. Made of concrete, steel and aluminum, it is 325 metres long and crosses the Thames from near St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London to the Tate Modern art gallery on the South Bank. It began as an idea from the Financial Times, many of whose readers would, of course, be users of London bridges, whether rail, road and foot, which held an international competition. This was done in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects and the London Borough of Southwark, as described on the web site ‘themilllenniumbridge’. The idea was to provide a footbridge between the Southwark and Blackfriars bridges, both road bridges. . One wonders why the City of London was not also involved at this stage. It was decided that it should be a long span bridge, a piece of public architecture as much as an engineering project. The fact that it is for pedestrians only means that users have a unique, traffic-free view of the sights. . The result was an unusual collaboration between the firm of Arup Engineers, the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and architects Foster and Partners.