Illuminated River is a long-term art installation transforming the capital at night with an orchestrated series of light works that span along the Thames. Its subtly moving sequences of LED light symbolically unify London’s Thames bridges, drawing inspiration from the spirit and history of the river and from the architectural and engineering heritage of its bridges.

London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium Bridges were illuminated in July 2019. Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth bridges will illuminate in Spring 2021.

Once complete, at 3.2 miles in length, Illuminated River will be the longest public art project in the world. Illuminated River is freely accessible to all and encourages Londoners and visitors alike to engage with culture in the open air and to enjoy the public spaces of the riverside at night.

Led by the Illuminated River Foundation, the project involves a unique and long lasting collaboration of statutory bodies, local authorities and communities, leaving a legacy for the capital in the form of a dynamic artwork with a minimum lifespan of ten years. The team submitted 30 planning applications and 18 applications for listed building consent, engaging with over 50 stakeholders on and near the river, holding scores of one-to-one meetings with heritage and ecology groups, local resident organisations and civic societies.

Designed and programmed by internationally renowned New York-based artist Leo Villareal, working with British project architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and lighting designers Atelier Ten, the artwork respects the natural environment and local inhabitants, creating a sensitive and site-specific interplay with the river. By removing current inefficient lighting on the bridges and replacing it with smart LED technologies and custom fittings, the new scheme reduces light spill onto the river and provides a better environment for Thames flora and fauna.

Prior to illumination, Atelier Ten carried out an extensive and innovative luminance survey from Albert to Tower Bridge (4.5 miles). Using a calibrated camera and specialist analysis software, a calibrated luminance record of both banks of the river was produced, documenting the brightness distribution of the bridges and their surroundings. The survey enabled the team to target a luminance level for each bridge; sufficiently bright that the bridge will be seen against its background whilst not overpowering neighbours or views of landmarks. This control of luminance has facilitated significant energy savings (75% saving in the case of London Bridge compared to previous lighting). Moreover two custom elements were designed for the light fittings. One is a blade that can be angled to shield light from falling onto the water, and the other improves pedestrian comfort along the banks by reducing glare.

Four families of luminaire types are attached to the bridges across the whole scheme. This simple palette of fittings allows standardisation of details and fixing arrangements as well as rationalising controls, maintenance and replacement. All this kit is attached seamlessly to the bridge structures, in a way that enhances their architectural beauty in daylight, as well as providing the canvas for the artwork at night.


Supplier Partners 2020

Lighting Designer Partners 2020

Supported by

.

.

Trophies created by

Organised by

In collaboration with