The Thames Is Aglow! These 4 Central London Bridges Are Now Illuminated

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The Thames Is Aglow! These 4 Central London Bridges Are Now Illuminated
Illuminated River on the Thames as seen from One Blackfriars
The four lit up rivers as seen from One Blackfriars. Photo: James Newton

The Thames is aglow... well, the bridges above it are.

Last night (17 July) saw the first phase of Illuminated River burst into to life — something we at Londonist have been incredibly excited about for quite some time. It sees the bridges above the Thames beautifully lit up, in an artwork that's free to view and accessible to all.

The first four bridges are now illuminated: Southwark Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, London Bridge and Cannon Street Bridge.

When the project is completed, 15 bridges along the river will be luminous.

Southwark Bridge lit up as part of Illuminated River
Southwark Bridge. Photo: James Newton

Illuminated River was conceived by American artist Leo Villareal and British architectural practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. It's a philanthropically funded initiative that's been supported by the Mayor of London.

As the bridges in question span seven different local authorities, Illuminated River is the biggest single planning application ever made without an Act of Parliament. We're sure that trivia nugget will come in handy at a pub quiz sometime soon.

Illuminated River, Cannon Street
Cannon Street Bridge. Photo: James Newton

The lights on the bridges aren't just aesthetically pleasing. The artwork has replaced outdated and inefficient lighting on the bridges, and with reduced energy consumption. These lights will be in place for at least 10 years.

London Bridge with the Shard in the background for Illuminated River
London Bridge. Photo: James Newton

They're pretty playful too. Take a look at the video beneath to see the gentle movements in the artwork on the Millennium Bridge. Vilareal was attempting to 'paint with light' through the project, drawing inspiration from the Impressionists and English Romantics.

The next phase is set to be completed by autumn 2020 and will include Blackfriars Road, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Westminster and Lambeth bridges.

Millennium Bridge with Tate Modern in the background for Illuminated River
Millennium Bridge. Photo: James Newton

When the project is completed it will span from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge, making it technically the longest public art commission in the world at 2.5 miles long. It will be viewed over a whopping billion times in its 10 year life cycle.

Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London 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.

Last Updated 18 July 2019