London is full of art exhibitions and installations and in summer 2019 an outdoor art gallery of a special kind will open. Four bridges in Central London will kick off the event – welcome to Illuminated River!

Illuminated River – what is it exactly?

  • Illuminated River is a public art installation on London’s bridges that will open in summer 2019.
  • The first four bridges (London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millenium) will be illuminated in summer 2019.
  • Further expansion will take place in phases; by 2022, the completed artwork will illuminate up to 15 bridges in Central London
  • The overall goal is to unite all bridges into one great work of art, representing the connection between North and South London.
  • The exhibition will remain for at least 10 years

Who’s behind Illuminated River?

  • The Illuminated River artwork is created by the American artist Leo Villareal and the British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.
  • The team won the “The Illuminated River International Design Competition” against 105 other international teams and was announced as the winner by London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the end of 2016.
  • The entire project is philanthropically-funded, the major donors being the Rothschild Foundation, Arcadia (Lisbeth Rausing & Peter Baldwin) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
  • More than 50 organisations from all over London are involved in the implementation. A total of 30 planning permissions have been granted.

What’s so special about Illuminated River?

  • Once complete, Illuminated River will be the longest public work of art in the world with 2.5 miles (approx. 3 km) and 4.5 miles nautical miles.
  • With subtle colours and changing hues, artist Leo Villareal takes inspiration from the paintings of the Thames by the Impressionists and artists of the Romantic period. He wants to show the identity of each individual bridge and honour their architecture and design.
  • Illuminated River is operated with LED’s and a software that has been developed by artist Leo Villareal.
  • One of the opportunities presented by the project will be to address issues of increasing lighting pollution and energy consumption in the city. Many of the bridges have halogen and halide lighting that needs updating because it is energy inefficient and generates high levels of light pollution, and some bridges have accumulated a variety of lighting elements over the years, some of which create glare and light spillage into the river, which can be very harmful to river wildlife and disruptive to fish populations. Albert Bridge, for example, currently throws out as much light as a motorway.  Using the latest LED technology, the project has the potential to reduce existing energy consumption by as much as 50% and reduce direct light spill by 75%.
  • The river will become more inviting and will encourage people to travel more often along and on the river Thames.

What do you think about the upcoming event? Which bridge do you want to be illuminated next? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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