first phase of illuminated river lights up the thames in london

first phase of illuminated river lights up the thames in london

a new collection of public artwork literally lights up the british capital at night. called ‘illuminated river’, the project spotlights four out of 15 bridges along the river thames in london so far, with the first phase stretching across the millennium, southwark, cannon street and london bridges. when complete in 2020, the commission will be the first time that the thames bridges are cohesively and artistically lit.

london bridge © james newton (main image also)



after a winning design was selected from the commission’s shortlist, illuminated river’ was conceived by american artist leo villareal, and british architectural practice lifschutz davidson sandilands. with lighting design by atelier ten, sequenced patterns subtly enhance and unfold across each bridges’ unique design. shifting hues – from yellow to red and blue – that mimic the london sky during sunset, moonlight and sunrise are projected upon the surfaces.

london bridge © james newton



the artwork pays special attention to the heritage, wildlife and location of each bridge, revealing their individual histories and architectural features. they also replace outdated and inefficient lighting by turning off at 2am rather than running from dusk to dawn. it minimizes direct lighting spilling onto the river and reduces energy consumption.

london bridge (front) with cannon street bridge (back) © james newton



as the first four of the famous bridges to be lit up, ‘illuminated river’ will eventually see up to 15 bridges embellished with the spectacular lighting. once complete, it will be the longest public art commission in the world at 2.5 miles in length along 4.5 nautical miles of the river. phase two will be completed by autumn 2020, which will include blackfriars road, waterloo, golden jubilee footbridges, westminster and lambeth birdges. the artwork will be in place for at least 10 years.

cannon street bridge © james newton


cannon street bridge © james newton


cannon street bridge © james newton


southwark bridge © james newton


millennium bridge © james newton


millennium bridge © james newton



project team:


name: illuminated river

artist: leo villareal studio

architect: lifschutz davidson sandilands

technical lighting design: atelier ten

cost consultant: core five

community engagement: iceni

contractor: FM conway

lighting supplier: signify (formerly philips lighting)

environmental impact assessment: temple group

ecology: thomson ecology

planning: montagu evans

structural engineering: price & myers

marine engineering: beckett rankine

measured survey: MSA ltd.

bats and birds survey: the london wildlife trust

  • yes we need more light poluttion 🙂

    maxi says:
  • Great! More unnecessary light pollution.

    What a complete waste of energy. 🙁

    3arn0wl says:

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