Leo Villareal has created temporary and permanent light sculptures for public spaces and museums throughout the United States and across the world, including the famous Bay Lights on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge (2013). 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.
Initially covered 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.
For Illuminated River, Leo Villareal is working with cutting edge LED technology to ‘paint with light’, producing sequenced patterns that subtly unfold across the Thames bridge structures. He engages with the site of each bridge, respecting and revealing their unique architectural features and historic identities, while the artwork across the fifteen bridges references the river as a continuous living system.
Villareal joins a long tradition of artists who have been inspired by the Thames. Programming his artwork on site, Villareal’s light compositions mimic the ever-changing movement of the river, using shifting hues drawn from the London sky during sunset, in moonlight, and at sunrise. He takes inspiration from the natural and social activity of the Thames; barges and boats moving cargo and people, the traffic surrounding the bridges, and the ebb and flow of the tides. Translating this atmosphere using custom created software, Villareal’s patterns are organic and ever-evolving, never repeating or resolving into a single image.
As a light artist, Villareal often works with architecture (The Bay Lights on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, Multiverse at Washington’s National Gallery of Art), seeking to invigorate and activate structures without overwhelming them. For Illuminated River, Villareal reactivates Foster & Partners ‘Blade of Light’ inspired by comic book hero Flash Gordon, on Millennium Bridge. Architectural details such as the intricate latticework underneath Westminster Bridge (historically painted green to match the Parlaiment's House of Commons seats) will be revealed, and the oft-overlooked Victorian bronze statues by Drury and Pomeroy that adorn the faces of Vauxhall Bridge will be reanimated.
Our aim is for a lighting master plan which reduces pollution and wasted energy, is sensitive to history and ecology and subtly re-balances the ambient lighting on the river to provide a beautiful night time experience for residents and visitors.
London-based practice 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 in London, with partners including Great Portland Estates, Coin Street Community Builders, Derwent London and Exemplar.
The project team combines the expertise of numerous companies. They include:
Colt Technology Services
Leo Villareal Studio
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
London Wildlife Trust
Price & Myers
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