Illuminated River Foundation

The Illuminated River Foundation is an independent charity set up to lead and fundraise for the project. 

With installation costs of £20 million, the Illuminated River Foundation will continue to raise money from private philanthropists, trusts and foundations. To date generous support has been received: £5 million from Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing through the Arcadia Fund, £5 million from The Rothschild Foundation, and £500,000 from the City of London Corporation. Seed funding of £250,000 was also received from the Mayor of London’s Office.

The Illuminated River Foundation is based in the offices of the Rothschild Foundation who provide administrative support. 

  • IRF Director: Sarah Gaventa
    IRF Director: Sarah Gaventa
    MA (RCA), Hon Fellow, Landscape Institute

    Sarah is a public space and public art expert and curator, and was previously Director of CABE Space at the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment. She has been Chair of the Elephant and Castle Regeneration Forum for the past five years.

Leo Villareal

Leo Villareal works with software and light to create complex, rhythmic artworks. His installations use custom, artist-created programming code, which constantly changes the frequency and intensity of the lights in sequenced patterns.

In 2013, Villareal debuted The Bay Lights on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Running a length of 3km (1.8 miles), the work consists of 25,000 energy-efficient, low voltage LED lights. Villareal was inspired by the surrounding area to guide his custom sequencing, integrating the kinetic motion of the water, air, and traffic to create abstract, organic patterns in light on the bridge's cables.

Competition submission film

Displayed in a random order for random amounts of time, the compositions have no preconceived outcome, resulting in sustained visual interest. Initially conceived for a two-year display, the light sculpture was met with positive public response and, through successful fundraising efforts, became a permanent installation in January 2016.

The Bay Lights, San Francisco (completed 2013)

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) were established in 1986, and have since completed a range of award-winning projects - from long-standing work on London’s South Bank, to innovative residential and office buildings, masterplans and the Golden Jubilee footbridges.

LDS have won over 80 national and international design awards, ranging from RIBA awards for excellence in architecture and British Council for Offices industry awards, to respected awards for house building and urbanism. 

LDS has worked extensively with respected names such as Great Portland Estates, Coin Street Community Builders, Derwent London and Exemplar. 

Project Team

The project team combines the expertise of numerous companies. They include:

Atelier Ten
Beckett Rankine
Core Five
Iceni Projects
London Wildlife
Montagu Evans
Price & Myers


The Illuminated River Foundation is working with many partners along the Thames, including:


The Foundation has already raised £10.75 million towards the cost of the project. £5 million has been given by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing through the Arcadia Fund and a further £5 million has been donated by the Rothschild Foundation, with £250,000 from the Mayor of London’s Office and £500,000 from the City of London Corporation. The Foundation is committed to raise the remainder of the funds for the project from private and philanthropic sources, with no further public funding being sought.

The Illuminated River Foundation is an independent charity set up to lead and fundraise for the Illuminated River.

Once installed, IRF will gift the project to the bridge owners or an independent body.

More than twenty partners and stakeholders, The Mayor of London and relevant London boroughs are an integral part of this project. 

The competition was run according to OJEU rules and the winning team was chosen by a jury made up of artists, practitioners and curators supported by a team of engineers and technical advisors.

The project is governed by an independent board of trustees including Munira Mirza, Fabia Bromovsky, Neil Mendoza and chaired by Hannah Rothschild.

It is advised by a number of expert partner groups, comprising:

  • The Project Advisory Group
  • The Bridge Management Group
  • The Communications Group

The Illuminated River is a registered charity (No. 1168375).

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