Lighting up London’s bridges, sensitively

Westminster Bridge Illuminated River © James Newton
Westminster Bridge Illuminated River © James Newton

Working with New York artist Leo Villareal and renowned London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Atelier Ten is enlivening 9 bridges on the Thames with a unique artwork created through dynamic lighting. Spanning across nine bridges in the heart of London, Illuminated River is the world’s longest public art commission covering 2.5 miles, and it reframes the perception of the river Thames at night. 

An estimated 90 million people a year will see the artwork over its minimum ten-year lifespan. The first phase of the project was completed in 2019, with the illumination of London Bridge, Cannon Street Rail Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Millennium Bridge. An additional five bridges, from Blackfriars to Lambeth, were unveiled in April 2021. 

Atelier Ten’s scope of services for the Illuminated River Foundation are Lighting Design, Environmental Design, Electrical Design and Energy Analysis. A PC-based control system was developed using custom made artist’s software to produce the dynamic, ever-changing artwork. It is worth noting that, the breathtaking scale of the project aside, the design is both respectful and sensitive to the bridges as architecture and heritage structures, and their surroundings. 

Atelier Ten started by carrying out an extensive and innovative luminance survey. Commissioned by the Illuminated River Foundation, this survey is the first of its kind to have ever been carried out, and allows it to target a luminance level for each bridge; ensuring that the bridge will be seen against its background whilst not overpowering neighbours or views of landmarks. An illuminance survey was also undertaken along the surface of the river itself and Atelier Ten designed the new lighting scheme to reduce high illuminance levels at the river surface. Read more.

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