The Illuminated River project is underway, with four bridges now glowing and five more about to join them.
I think we can all agree that 2016 was a pretty dark year (compared to everything except 2020, of course). However, out of that darkness came a ray of light – quite literally, it turns out. The Mayor of London launched an international design competition to illuminate the bridges of the Thames, and bring a little more colour to those dark London nights. American artist Leo Villareal and British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) won the right to light the night, and back in 2019, the first stage of the Illuminated River project went live. Now, five more bridges will be lighting up in spring 2021, adding further soft illuminations to the London cityscape.
The project is running in three phases, and first to get the Illuminated River treatment (back in summer 2019) were London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and Cannon Street Bridge, now glowing away merrily. They’ve each got their own distinct lighting style; London Bridge takes from all edges of the rainbow, whilst Millennium Bridge is resplendent in classic white. The patterns are meant to evoke the London sky during sunset, moonlight, and sunset, as well as reflecting the currents of the river.
Some of the illuminated bridges – such as London Bridge and Southwark Bridge – had previous light displays, but these are designed to be both fancier and more efficient. The lights will switch off at 2am, and are designed to minimise direct light spill onto the river. There’s plenty of pedigree behind the project; Villareal brought his talents to the San Francisco Bay Bridge (not to be confused with the Golden Gate bridge) and LDS are renowned for their work on the South Bank.
Phase Two of the Illuminated River project is set to take place in spring 2021 (delayed from autumn 2020 by the pandemic), and will light up Blackfriars Road Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, and the Golden Jubilee Footbridges. Meanwhile, the final phase will hopefully be completed by 2022, at which point every river crossing between Albert Bridge and Tower Bridge will be awash in colour.
It’s estimated that over a billion people will see Illuminated River over the project’s 10-year lifespan, which means – amongst over things – that the bridges will certainly give London’s Christmas lights a run for their money!
You can find out more about the Illuminated River project on their website.
Also published on Medium.