The Illuminated River


The Illuminated River

Active Dates: 2016 - 2021
Number of Project Partners: 28
CRP Project Lead: Susannah Wilks

Illuminated River is a long-term public art commission on an unprecedented scale; lighting nine of central London’s bridges along the River Thames for a minimum of ten years. The first four bridges – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium – were completed in July 2019. Five more bridges – Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth – were illuminated in April 2021. The project was led by the Illuminated River Foundation.

Illuminated River has transformed the Thames at night with a unified light installation that celebrates the bridges as architectural, social and historical landmarks, whilst creating a symbolic link across the political, financial and cultural centres of the capital. At 3.2 miles in length, Illuminated River spans from London to Lambeth bridges, making it the longest public art commission in the world.

Following an international competition launched in June 2016, which attracted more than 105 submissions, the winning scheme, led by American light artist Leo Villareal (the artist responsible for lighting San Francisco’s Bay Bridge) and London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, impressed the jury with their exciting kinetic artwork as well as their respect for the natural environment, local inhabitants and the architectural character and history of the bridges.

Villareal used the latest LED technology to ‘paint with light’, taking influence from the natural and social activity of the river and producing sequenced patterns that play across the bridge structures. His creation engages specifically with the site of each bridge, respecting and revealing their distinctive histories and architectural features, while the integrated motion across fifteen bridges will create a unified artwork that references the river as a continuous living system.

Illuminated River act as a catalyst to improve lighting conditions, cultivate new opportunities for use of the riverscape, and define the bridges as renewed civic spaces for Londoners.

CRP is extremely pleased that the artwork includes its original flagship project, the Millennium Bridge, and has enjoyed advising The Illuminated River Foundation on strategic aspects of the project ever since the original idea first came about.

If you would like to learn more about Illuminated River, there are a number of ways of engaging with the artwork, including walking routs and boat tours, as well as self-guided walking route options. Please visit the Illuminated River website for more information.

Visit the website

Project Partners

The Illuminated River City of London Corporation City Cruises Cross River Partnership Edwardian Hotels The Environment Agency Guildhall School of Music & Drama Historic England London Borough of Lambeth Livett’s Group London & Partners London Wildlife Trust Mayor of London MBNA Thames Clippers Network Rail The Northbank BID OpenCity Port of London Authority Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea South Bank BID South Bank London London Borough of Southwark Tech London Advocates Thames21 Thames Estuary Partnership Tideway Totally Thames Transport for London Westminster City Council Zoological Society of London

Useful Downloads & Links

Bay Lights Video
Promotional video
Illuminated River Biographies
Who's who in the Illuminated River project
Illuminated River Competition Process
How the design competition was run
Illuminated River Press Release - Announcement of Winning Team
The winner - who, how and why they were chosen
Illuminated River Schools' Timeline and Programme
Getting the younger generation involved
Illuminated River Shortlist Statements
Statements from the shortlisted teams
Illuminated River Teams Details
Who's who in the shortlisted teams
Illuminated River Press Release on Submitting Planning Applications
The planning process
Illuminated River Stakeholder Quotes
Soundbites that capture the spirit
London's Great Bridges: Lighting the Thames
Channel 4 3-Part Documentary
Illuminated River Walking Tour
Led by City of London Guides
Radiant river — the team illuminating the Thames
The Times article