Illuminated River

The Illuminated River will be a long term art commission on an unprecedented scale:
a scheme to light central London’s bridges along the River Thames.

Since the founding of London, the mighty Thames has been the city’s main artery, linking north and south, east and west, encouraging business, activity and recreation. But at night, the river becomes a ribbon of darkness, a place that few can enjoy. This project will bring light, energy and beauty to the river and at the flick of a switch, transform the city at night. Leo Villareal’s proven ability to paint with light matched with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ direct experience of building bridges over the Thames is an irresistible and inspirational combination.
Hannah Rothschild, Trustee of the Illuminated River Foundation
The Illuminated River will give London free art. The project also means that a wasted asset and wasted resource will now be used. The team had thought through how the project is sustainable, how it will be energy efficient and use less energy.
Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London
The river is one of those great, unrealised potential in London and especially at night…it is somehow forgotten. This project is about art but also about how the bridges sit within the city. What function do they have? What do the banks for the river do for the city? It’s so much more than just lighting bridges. It is a scheme that will change the way people move around London. It is a scheme that will give people a new view of London and it is free. This is a great project to bring people in the city together.
Nick Serota, Chairman, Arts Council England
This project will transform London’s historic river and the City of London Corporation, which manages five of the capital’s iconic bridges, is very proud to play a key role in making it happen. Bringing together art, design and technology on an unprecedented scale, Illuminated River has captured the imagination of talented creatives from around the world, all of them hugely enthusiastic about competing to be part of what is likely to be the largest art project of its kind in the world.
Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation
The Thames is London’s most ancient public space. It has witnessed countless invasions, disasters, pageants and processions; inspired some of our greatest writers from Samuel Pepys to TS Eliot; and has been a constant for Londoners since the city’s birth. The bridges that span our river are some of the most precious historic sites we have; they are markers of place and beautiful responses to our practical need to navigate the city. The Illuminated River project is the next stage in the Thames’ evolution, a way to reconnect with the river, a celebration of our collective history and a glimpse into our city’s future
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England
A key aim for the Thames Tideway Tunnel is to 'Reconnect London with the River Thames' and projects like the Illuminated River will help to achieve that ambition.
Geoff Loader, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at Tideway London
Millions of rail passengers rely on London's bridges every day to get to and from work and home. The Illuminated River project will help highlight the vital role these bridges play in connecting our capital city. Although as a public body we can't fund this exciting idea, we will do everything we can to ensure its success.
Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail
With a cultural calendar so vibrant and diverse, London continues to enjoy record-breaking numbers of visitors from all over the world. To combine one of the capital’s most historic icons with such an innovative and creative venture will allow us to attract new international audiences to experience our incredible city.
Gordon Innes, CEO London & Partners
I’ve been really impressed with their pro-active approach to seek advice regarding what lighting design, lighting type and lighting levels could impact wildlife, specifically concerning fish in my case. By organising an ecology meeting at such an early stage of the project, I am confident that the advice provided will be used by the architects to minimise impact on fish, and other wildlife, during the design process. Following a trip on the Thames with Leo Villareal and the Illuminated River team; it is clear that the project partners are striving to produce an ecologically sensitive design and I look forward to seeing the installation draw attention to the wonderful Thames environment.
Joanna Barker, Marine and Freshwater Project Manager, ZSL (Zoological Society of London)
The project has been well thought out, with extensive consultation and commitment of resources. When completed it will help to link communities across the river, provide Londoners and visitors with a splendid spectacle while enhancing the bridge structures both from the river and the banks.
Peter Finch, Chairman of the River Thames Society

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