Illuminated River: What Is It, And When Will The Thames Bridges Be Lit Up?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 65 months ago

Last Updated 21 January 2019

Illuminated River: What Is It, And When Will The Thames Bridges Be Lit Up?
Illuminated River
Overall View © Illuminated River, Leo Villareal Studio, 2018

What is Illuminated River?

Illuminated River is a large-scale art project which will see illuminations installed on bridges across the River Thames. Each artwork will celebrate the role of the Thames’ bridges in connecting communities on the north and south sides of the river.

Illuminated River was one of our picks for things to look forward to in London in 2019.

Which bridges will be lit by Illuminated River?

Southwark Bridge © Illuminated River, Leo Villareal Studio, 2018

Initially, four bridges will be lit up; London Bridge, Cannon Street Bridge, Southwark Bridge and the Millennium Bridge.

Up to 15 bridges across the Thames will be illuminated by 2022, from Albert Bridge in west London to Tower Bridge in the City, a stretch of 4.5 nautical miles.

When does Illuminated River start?

Millenium Bridge © Illuminated River, Leo Villareal Studio, 2018

Installation work on the first four bridges mentioned above is due to start in early 2019, and the illuminations should be up and running by summer 2019.

The timescale for future installations has yet to be announced, as it is dependent on funding being achieved.

Is Illuminated River permanent?

Cannon Street Bridge © Illuminated River, Leo Villareal Studio, 2018

Once the illuminations are installed, they will be in place for at least 10 years, as The Illuminated River Foundation plans to pay for any necessary maintenance for this time. The lighting kit has a 20 year life span, so after the initial 10 years the lighting kit will be gifted to each bridge owner, who will be responsible for its future.

Who's behind Illuminated River?

American artist Leo Villareal and London-based architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands are responsible for designing the installations, although Illuminated River was initially the idea of Hannah Rothschild of the Rothschild Foundation.

The Illuminated River Foundation was established as a charity to raise the funds needed for the project, which is also supported by the Mayor of London.

Who's paying for Illuminated River and how much will it cost?

London Bridge © Illuminated River, Leo Villareal Studio, 2018

At an average cost of £3 million per bridge, Illuminated River isn't cheap. An initial grant of £250,000 came from the Olympic Reserve fund, but other than that's it's down to charity fundraising, with no further spending of public money planned.

Organisations including The Rothschild Foundation, The Blavatnik Family Foundation and Arcadia have already made considerable donations.

It's being made clear that unlike the controversial and ultimately doomed Garden Bridge, sponsors and donors to Illuminated River will have no special access benefits, and no corporate or private events will be held on bridges as a result of the project.

Find out more on the Illuminated River website and follow the project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.