• London’s ‘ribbon of darkness’ to be bathed in light

    CGI of the Illuminated River Overview

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London’s ‘ribbon of darkness’ to be bathed in light

A £20 million light installation promises to breath new life into the River Thames and bring the capital’s ambitions to be a 24-hour city that bit closer.

A team led by world renowned US light artist Leo Villareal and London-based architect Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands has won a design competition that will see London’s bridges lit up along the length of the River Thames.

The winner of the Illuminated River design competition was announced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on Wednesday (November 7th) and will begin work on its plans for a £20 million light installation running the length of the river next year.

Called Current, the slowly moving and colour-changing lighting scheme will be synchronised across 17 pedestrian, road and rail crossings from Albert Bridge -close to Ballymore’s riverside development Nine Elms and extend to Tower Bridge.

Villareal, is best known for The Bay Lights project, a 1.8 mile long installation of 25,000 white LED lights which lit San Francisco Bay Bridge for two years from 2013, returning permanently earlier this year. His work, Cylinder II was part of a Lightshow, a traveling international exhibition organised by London’s Hayward Gallery.

London’s ‘ribbon of darkness’ to be bathed in light

The Bay Lights by Leo Villareal. Photo credit : James Ewing

LDS has worked on a number of riverside projects, including the Southbank and designed the Jubilee footbridges, which link the South Bank with Charing Cross station - experience that was not lost on the judges, said Hannah Rothschild, chair of the Illuminated River Foundation: “Leo Villareal’s proven ability to paint with light matched with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ direct experience of building bridges over the Thames was an irresistible and inspirational combination,” she said.

“The whole team shares a belief in the power of large-scale public culture and art to enrich our cities,” said Villareal, adding that the team will take time to study the river “in all its manifestations” as it begins to develop its design concepts before going out to public consultation next year.

“We want to listen to Londoners in developing the scheme to deliver at all levels of art and light, urban design and architecture, the environment and sustainability,” he said. “Our aim is for a lighting masterplan which reduces pollution and wasted energy, is sensitive to history and ecology and subtly rebalances the ambient lighting on the river to provide a beautiful night time experience for residents and visitors.”

Rothschild said the project would “transform” the Thames after dark: “At night, the river becomes a ribbon of darkness, a place that few enjoy and at odds with the ambition to make London a 24-hour city,” she said. “This project will bring light, energy, beauty and recreation to the river and at the flick of a switch transform the city at night.”

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