First phase of Illuminated River launched

The first four bridges of Illuminated River, as seen from One Blackfriars. Pic: James Newton

(UK) – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millenium Bridge illuminated with lighting from Signify.

Four bridges along the River Thames were last night (17 July) transformed, as the first phase of London’s Illuminated River – a project that will eventually see up to fifteen bridges along the Thames lit up – was launched.

Conceived by American artist Leo Villareal, alongside British architectural practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Illuminated River is a philanthropically-funded initiative supported by the Mayor of London and delivered by the Illuminated River Foundation, that aims to celebrate the architecture and heritage of London’s historic bridges.

The first four bridges of this project – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millenium – are now lit up in unison, with sequenced LED patterns subtly unfolding across each unique structure.

Villareal’s artwork replaces outdated and inefficient lighting on the bridges, providing a more long-term sustainable solution for lighting the Thames. Designed by Atelier Ten, the lighting will minimise direct light spill onto the river and reduce energy consumption. While the former lighting ran all night, Illuminated River’s connected LED lighting from Signify will be switched off at 2am.

The artwork has been sensitively developed, paying attention to the heritage, wildlife and location of each bridge, respecting and revealing their individual histories and architectural features, with a goal of refocusing attention on the Thames bridges as social, historical and architectural landmarks, celebrating their role in London’s enduring global identity.

On the newly illuminated bridges, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I am delighted that Illuminated River is bringing more free and accessible artwork to Londoners. The Thames has played a key role in the growth and development of our capital for centuries, and this unique artwork will help Londoners and visitors see it in a whole new way.”

Artist Leo Villareal added: “With Illuminated River, the largest artwork I’ve ever conceived, I’m hoping to reveal the truly unique, inspiring and poetic character of the Thames. The integrated nuances and motions across the bridges create a unified piece that celebrates and enhances the river as a continuous living entity. I’m both delighted and humbled by the completion of this initial phase and I can’t wait for the public to experience the first four bridges.”

Work is already underway on phase two, scheduled for completion by Autumn 2020, which will include Blackfriars Road, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Westminster and Lambeth bridges.