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illuminating London’s bridges

By Eitan Fox  //  Thu 25th July 2019
From the Fourth Plinth to Art on the Underground, our city has a rich heritage of showcasing public art, and I am delighted that Illuminated River is bringing more free and accessible artwork to Londoners.



If you’re out and about in central London this evening, look out for a stunning new art project spanning the River Thames. Four of London’s landmark bridges have so far been lit up, in impressionistic shades of pink, purple and blue. It’s all thanks to the Illuminated River scheme, which will ultimately transform all 15 Thames crossings from Tower Bridge to Albert Bridge.

The first bridges to receive the illumination treatment are London, Cannon Street, Southwark and the Millennium Bridge. The lighting, designed by artist Leo Villareal and London architectural practice, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, will remain in place for the next decade.

The project has been funded by philanthropic private sources and is supported by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He said: “From the Fourth Plinth to Art on the Underground, our city has a rich heritage of showcasing public art, and I am delighted that Illuminated River is bringing more free and accessible artwork to Londoners.

“The Thames has played a key role in the growth and development of our capital for centuries, and this unique artwork will help Londoners and visitors see it in a whole new way. The Illuminated River will celebrate the unique architecture and heritage of our bridges, showcase creativity, boost life at night and transform the way we think about the Thames.”

With the UK committed to reducing energy use, in an effort to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, you might question the environmental impact of such a big lighting project. The scheme is, however, greener than it looks. According to its organisers, the installations will actually reduce energy use; by 18% in the case of the first four bridges to take part.

To celebrate the big switch on, a series of events is planned, including after-dark tours by foot, boat and black cab; night-time mudlarking (foraging by the Thames) and riverside musical performances.

You can see four the illuminated bridges nightly until 2am. Once complete, Illuminated River will be 2.5 miles long - the longest public art commission in the world. It is expected to be viewed one billion times during its 10-year lifespan.

Read more about this project in Time Out and the Londonist or visit the Illuminated River website.

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