The Illuminated River

The Illuminated River project will oversee a project on behalf of the Rothschild Foundation and the Greater London Authority to add lighting to all the bridges along the central section of the River Thames. Established in 2016, it aims to enhance some of the capital’s less well-used public spaces.

Update – On the 8th of May 2018, The Illuminated River Foundation announced that it had submitted 30 planning applications and 18 applications for Listed Building Consent across seven riverside authorities for a major public art installation that will bring light and colour to the heart of London.

This scheme has been developed in consultation and collaboration with over 50 organisations on and around the river, including the Port of London Authority and Historic England. The number of applications submitted for the 15 bridges, demonstrate the sheer scale and complexity of this project.

The plans focus on a Spring 2019 launch for the first phase of illumination, and unveils that the first 4 sites to be illuminated will be London, Millennium, Southwark and Cannon Street Bridge.

Environmental Impact Survey

The Illuminated River Foundation has also created the first ever digital Interactive Environmental Summary to support its planning applications. This tool is one of the first of its kind and marks an important step towards presenting the environmental information contained within the Illuminated River Foundation’s planning application in an interactive and user-friendly format.

Key Project Facts

  • Estimated to be the longest public art work in the world, Illuminated River celebrates the momentous history of the River Thames
  • US artist Leo Villareal and architecture practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands are leading on the vision, design and creation
  • Illuminated River will light up spaces which are currently under lit, while reducing excess light spill in others, bringing a practical solution to the needs of London while creating a major public artwork for the enjoyment of all
  • Whilst each bridge will be lit differently, the artwork will unify the bridges of central London
  • The project aims to be a model of best practice and collaboration for culture in the urban realm, demonstrating how multiple private and public organisations and bodies can work together to improve public space for everyone
  • Conceived as a privately funded project, Illuminated River has been commissioned by the Illuminated River Foundation, which is committed to raising the funds for the project from private and philanthropic sources

Cross River Partnership plans to continue working in conjunction with the Rothschild Foundation and the Greater London Authority to carry out this innovative measure in an attempt to keep London at the forefront of expressive art culture and attracting more interest to its night-time economy. The Illuminated River project, led by the Illuminated River Foundation, will encompass 15 historical bridges that run across the river to represent the vibrant and futuristic approach London is taking through the use of low-carbon, sustainable and green technology.

The 15 bridges within the scope of the project are: Albert Bridge, Chelsea Bridge, Grosvenor Railway Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Blackfriars Railway Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge, London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

Please see for further details on the project.

“This project will transform London’s historic river and the City of London Corporation is very proud to play a part in making it happen. We want the City of London to be at the heart of what looks likely to be the largest art project of its kind in the world.”

Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation

“The response to the Illuminated River competition was extraordinary and humbling: more than 100 teams entered the competition, including some of the leading international names in design, lighting, technical and the arts. The final shortlist represents an exhilarating mix of talent, inspiration and design approach. In November the finalists’ concept designs will be unveiled, and London will have six possible visions of how the river and the city might be transformed after dark.”

Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation

“This is a really exciting opportunity to breathe new life through the heart of London each night in a new, permanent, fluid light art installation across the capital’s historic bridges. It will throw a spotlight on the river and its banks, and extend their daytime bustle and buzz into the darker hours, supporting London’s burgeoning night-time economy. A dazzling, free outdoor art gallery, for Londoners and all of our visitors to enjoy would encourage new investment and promote our great city to the rest of the world. With the right design, we can remind the world that London continues to be the global leader in innovation, sustainability and artistic creativity.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

CRP Team members

Susannah Wilks


Project stats

Incorporating 15 bridges, from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge
With £20 million installation costs, the Illuminated River Foundation will continue to raise money from private philanthropists, trusts and foundations
30 planning applications and 18 applications for listed building consent submitted across seven riverside authorities

Project partners