Millennium Bridge

Summer 2019

Bridge House Estates
Arup Group, Foster + Partners and Sir Anthony Caro

Millennium Bridge was London’s first new pedestrian bridge for over a century. The design was chosen through open competition and was won by Foster & Partners and Sir Anthony Caro with Arup. The bridge is an unusually shallow stressed cable suspension bridge, specifically designed to provide spectacular views of St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern.

The bridge was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II and originally opened in 2000. The sheer volume of pedestrian traffic on the bridge on opening days (90,000 people) caused an unexpected swaying motion, causing it to be nicknamed ‘The Wobbly Bridge’.

This problem was fixed by the retrofitting of 37 fluid-viscous (energy dissipating) dampers to control horizontal movement and 52 tuned mass (inertial) dampers to control vertical movement. The bridge was reopened in 2002 and has not been subject to significant vibration since.

Inspired by Sir Norman Foster’s love of superhero Flash Gordon, the architect’s original lighting scheme was designed to incorporate a ‘blade of light’. Alas this was not successfully realised at the time. For Illuminated River, Leo Villareal consulted Fosters & Partners so that he could reference the original lighting concept in his artwork for Millennium Bridge.

Artist Ben Wilson can often be found painting miniature works of art on discarded chewing gum on the walkways. If you look closely at the grooves of Millennium Bridge, you can discover up to 400 works of art.

Photo: Sean Pollock

Artist’s Vision

Illuminated River's pulse of light mirrors the movements of people crossing the bridge, highlighting their faces and casting silhouettes that enhance the bridge structure, while preserving the inky darkness of the Thames below.

Left: the former lighting on Millennium Bridge. Right: Leo Villareal’s Illuminated River artwork.

Leo Villareal discusses the architecture of Millennium Bridge and the inspiration behind his artwork.