An illuminating new art project sees London’s bridges shine.
Once a river so polluted it was declared biologically dead, the Thames has become an inspiring example of how liquid infrastructure can be detoxified and turned into a popular tourist destination and a source of civic pride. Now the historic London waterway is to form the backdrop for an ambitious public art project that will see 15 of its bridges lit up in a unified scheme by the artist Leo Villareal, who has collaborated with local architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.
The Illuminated River project’s first four completed crossings – London Bridge, Cannon Street Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and Millennium Bridge – are being unveiled this July, while the remaining bridges will be revealed in four phases over the next few years.
The project aims to create visual cohesion between the Thames’ multiple crossings, built between 1862 and 2002, replacing the bridges’ currently disparate lighting with a more energy-efficient system, while supporting the river’s ecology and encouraging public interaction.
Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands were announced as the winning team in 2016, beating more than a hundred other submissions in the process. Both have notably worked on bridges: Villareal had lit up San Francisco’s Bay Bridge with 25,000 LED lights in 2013 (known as The Bay Lights, the installation has since become permanent), and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands had designed the 2002 Golden Jubilee Bridges, a pair of pedestrian footbridges that flank London’s Hungerford railway bridge.
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