Winner of London’s Illuminated River contest announced

Leo Villareal's proposal for Chelsea Bridge in West London. Ten  million pounds have already been raised for the project.

A winner has been announced of the Illuminated River design competition. The multi-million pound project will see the creation of new lighting schemes for all of central London’s iconic river bridges.

The jury picked a lighting scheme designed by renowned American light artist Leo Villareal, who created the largest LED artwork in history on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

The design, which was developed in conjunction with architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and curators Future Place, creates a sensitive, interactive and site-specific interplay with the river, pedestrians and passing traffic.

The artwork, named Current, which was designed by Villareal on his laptop while sitting on the banks of the river, is a scheme in three parts, each designed to enliven the Thames with dynamic light.

Light and colour are integrated on the seventeen bridges from Tower Bridge to Albert Bridge in Chelsea, while a strategic scheme along the banks will control commercial lighting, introducing the setting for future cultural projects.

Additional proposals include a partnership between the Thames Clipper river boats and artists Random International, and immersive instillations by Japanese technologists teamLab are also being considered.

The Villareal scheme is arguably one of the more achievable plans from a selection of radical entries that had been criticised by lighting designers for their failure to acknowledge London’s severe lighting pollution problems.

The winner was announced at London’s Tate Modern by the mayor of the city, Sadiq Khan, and the winning scheme was praised as an ‘international bid for an international city.’

London Bridge veiled in fire-like colours, part of Leo Villareal's winning design.

Current aims to create a river of light and takes a sensitive approach to create unity,’ Villareal commented after his win was announced. ‘I want to create a work that has the power to bind people together.’

The first phase of the fundraising campaign for the project is already underway and it was recently announced that £10 million has been pledged towards the project, £5 million by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing through the Arcadia Fund, and a further £5 million from the Rothschild Foundation.

'The project will be made up of six nautical miles of lighting,' Hannah Rothschild, chair of the Illuminated River Foundation commented. 'The Thames is liquid history and we intend to turn a bleak snake of darkness into a ribbon of light.'

Other entrants to the contest included Adjaye Associates, Arup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Sam Jacob Studio and Les Eclairagistes Associates.

Comments 4

A spectacular win of the commercialization over the nature. Somebody asked fishes and birds how they feel with this Vanity fair, didn't they ? What about the human beings living around the river ?

Good day, Iam delighted to see such lighting design that defined the London bridges and add a novel breath . BR

Villareal's design for the Bay Bridge proved to be a superior idea as well as a more-or-less responsible one. However, I have grave reservations about this design for thee Thames. I've read that the Thames benefited from years of environmental clean up and now again serves as a home to wildlife, but as we have learned from the lighting of Calatrava's Sundial Bridge in California, lighting so close to the water, and especially short wavelength lighting that is prevalent in LED, severely disrupts fish and the entire ecosystem of a river. Is London once again giving up on the Thames' environment?

It looks like they specified as much linear lighting as possible then gave it to an office junior and said " try and program some ripples please. Doesn't matter if its not very good".

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