Almost 20 years since the unveiling of the Millennium Dome, which promised to transform the post-industrial wastes of the Greenwich Peninsula, the area has become a junkyard of half-baked ideas and botched plans. Emerging from the tube station, you are confronted with a cacophony of competing structures: the tilting concrete struts supporting a glass canopy swerve drunkenly towards a wall of fat towers clad in a chequerboard of bronze, champagne and metallic dog-turd brown.
To the right looms a bulbous sales-suite-cum-gallery, to the left the jazzy shed of Ravensbourne University, while all around lie assorted oddments of public art and curated happenings, from a huge, twisted steel spire to a surreal dinner party in the sky – a table suspended from a crane where you can eat dinner, strapped to a seat, for £200. Completing the panorama of pointless whimsy, the pylons of Boris Johnson’s costly cable car stretch across the Thames in the distance.
This souped-up graveyard of novelty trinkets is a fitting place to find London’s answer to the High Line, New York’s verdant park built on a former train track. Billed as “a layered network of recreation, culture and wellness” by Knight Dragon, the neighbourhood’s Hong Kong-based developer, the raised footpath will weave its way around the district in a 5km loop “stitching together diverse ecosystems”.
There have been many cynical attempts to emulate the High Line since it was found that proximity to an elevated green space can significantly raise property prices, but The Tide, a new walkway on the peninsula, is perhaps the most brazen of them all. While the Manhattan footpath transformed an abandoned route in 2009, with the unintended consequence of accelerating local gentrification, London’s version has seen the construction of an elaborate steel structure specifically to elevate the value of a steroidal development of luxury apartments. It is the marketeers’ flimsy sugarcoating of “placemaking” in its most unashamed form, a textbook combination of greenwashing and artwashing, as a decoy to distract from the low levels of affordable housing. But perhaps the most surprising thing is that the architects of the original High Line are behind it.