Radical designs unveiled to light London's bridges

A set of radical lighting schemes have been unveiled as part of the Illuminated River design competition to illuminate central London's river bridges. The submissions, produced by a number of international designers, include proposals to link each bridge with lasers of light, bathe London Bridge in a fiery hue and plant retro light posts in the waters of the river itself.

Proposals were submitted by design teams which include Adjaye Associates, Arup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, renowned light artist Leo Villareal, Sam Jacob Studio and Les Eclairagistes Associates.

The first phase of the fundraising campaign is already underway and it was announced today that £10 million has already 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 at an event on London's Southbank to launch the designs. 'The Thames is liquid history and we intend to turn a bleak snake of darkness into a ribbon of light.'

The  Adajaye Associates proposal, titled Blurring Boundaries, seeks to reimagine the bridges as the heart of London and they have assembled a team of international artists, including Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, to produce designs based around the unique qualities of each bridge.

Turner Prize winning artist's Jeremy Deller's design for Southwark Bridge

Chelsea Bridge as proposed by Adaje Associates

London Bridge designed by artist Chris Ofii

AL_A have based its ideas around the tide of the Thames, in an attempt to reveal the river as a breathing, pulsing organism in a design titled 'The Eternal Story of the River Thames'. When the tide is low, the underbellies of the bridges are revealed by the lighting. At high tide the lighting shifts to illuminate the elevation of the structures.

Westminster Bridge designed by AL_A

The underbelly of Chelsea Bridge

Diller Scofidio + Renfro's design 'Synchronising the City', aims to highlight the river's often overlook links with nature. To mark the 'magic hour' when the sun has crossed the horizon and the sky starts to dim, the bridges slowly start to fill with light, like a tipped vessel starts to fill with liquid. The arrival of darkness is met with a beam of light that shoots into the sky, rendering the rotation of the earth visible, while creating a meandering recreation of the river in the night sky.

Searchlights reaching into the sky, a torch relay designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The reawakening of Westminster Bridge

'Saluting the night' has proposed in 'Synchronising the City: Its Natural and Urban Rhythms'


Light artist Leo Villareal, who created the largest LED artwork in history on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, has developed a scheme with architects Lifschutz Davidson, which creates a sensitive, interactive and site-specific interplay with the river.

Chelsea Bridge designed by light artist Leo Villareal

London Bridge veiled in fire-like colours

Les Eclairagistes Associes have proposed planting lamp posts in the Thames to plot the course of the river, which disappear and re-emerge as the river's tide goes in and out. Each lamp post would be a reproduction of original lamp posts from around the world, highlighting the fact that London is an interplay between all the cultures of the earth. The lighting of the bridges in this proposal would be regulated to follow the ideal line of demarcation between light and shadow.

'The Woman's Bridge' or Waterloo Bridge, which was built by women during World War II

Westminster Bridge, the light creating a interesting interplay with the water

The art installation segment of the Les Eclairagistes Associes proposal. Light posts that appear in the river at low tide

The Sam Jacob Studio proposal is called 'The Thames Nocturne' and creates a ribbon of light connecting Chelsea to Wapping. The light in the scheme is used as a medium to create weaves of light forming a volume of space. The volume is choreographed by live data produced by the river itself, creating a display that ebbs and flows with the Thames. The individual character of the bridges is revealed through monochromatic light that changes the structure's architectural form as the tide rises and falls.

Chelsea Bridge in the 'Thames Nocturne' proposal

London Bridge is linked with other river crossings as part of the lighting scheme

A pathway of light will be created if the Thames Nocturne wins the contest

Members of the public will be able to view the designs at the Royal Festival Hall for the next month and a winner will be announced on the 8th of December.

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