Stretching from Blackfriars to Lambeth, five newly illuminated bridges mark the completion of Leo Villareal’s project, which will be in place for 10 years
Illuminated River, a public artwork bringing light and colour to London’s bridges, has been unveiled across five bridges in the city centre, thus fully realising the project which launched in 2019 across an initial four bridges.
Conceived by New York-based artist Leo Villareal in collaboration with London architecture practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Illuminated River is billed as the longest public art commission in the world, and is on display every evening from dusk until 2am across the nine bridges. Those in this second phase include Blackfriars Road, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges; the first phase involved London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium Bridges.
The Illuminated River installation, which will be in place for at least ten years, aims to be a celebration of London, the Thames, and the specific architecture, engineering and histories of each of the bridges. A unique, never-repeated algorithm was devised by Villareal for each bridge, delivering subtly moving sequences of colourful LED light.
The launch marks the culmination of one of the largest and most detailed planning processes ever undertaken in London, with 30 planning permissions and 18 listed building consents granted. The predominantly privately funded project involved extensive collaboration across the disciplines of art, design, lighting, technology, planning and construction, and the research that went into it is being made available as a free public resource.
To celebrate the completion, a public engagement programme has been launched by the Illuminated River Foundation. Featuring a mix of on-site and digital activities, the programme includes interactive art trails and informative guided walking tours, as well as a musical collaboration with students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Photography by James Newton