New phase of five Illu­min­ated River bridges starts on time as Lon­don emerges out of lockdown

The second phase of the next five bridges starts on site today, Friday 17th July 2020, on the anniversary of the completion of the first phase. Despite lockdown, the project is being installed on time and on budget, with the artworks for Blackfriars Road Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, the Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Westminster Bridge and Lambeth Bridge due to be unveiled in Spring 2021.

    Westminster Bridge Illuminated River artwork ©Leo Villareal Studio

    Westminster Bridge pre-Illuminated River © James Newton

    The Illuminated River Foundation is delighted to announce that installation of the next phase of the Illuminated River public art commission is now underway. The site works will extend the light artwork to include an additional five bridges, from Blackfriars in the east to Lambeth Bridge in the west – transforming nocturnal views of the city and celebrating the Thames bridges as social, historical and architectural landmarks.

    By redoubling its efforts during the critical window before the lockdown of construction sites, the Foundation was able to accelerate site surveys – ensuring that design, fabrication and planning of its second phase could progress as lockdown took hold. The result is that, despite Covid–19, the public artwork for London is now on site and remains on track for delivery.

    Illuminated River’s second phase encompasses the constitutional heart of London, incorporating bridges alongside sites of significant cultural and historic importance including Lambeth Palace and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Palace of Westminster, as well as contemporary landmarks such as the London Eye and the modernist Southbank complex. By Spring 2021 the number of bridges lit by the artwork will be expanded to nine, with Illuminated River reaching from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge.

    The latest phase will see Westminster and Lambeth Bridges enhanced with gentle washes of green and red light respectively – an allusion to the colour code of benches in the historic debating chambers of the Houses of Commons and Lords. The intricately vaulted undercroft of the 1862 Westminster Bridge – central London’s oldest bridge – will be celebrated for the first time in shifting cadences of soft green light, made possible with generous support from the Reuben Foundation.

    At the heart of the South Bank the contemporary spans of the Golden Jubilee Footbridges will be lauded in subtly moving monochromatic lighting. In contrast, Waterloo Bridge, opened in 1942, is conceived by Leo Villareal as a focal point for exploring colour palettes represented in paintings of the Thames by American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Impressionist and English Romantic artists including Claude Monet. Uniting the second phase of the artwork with the adjacent first phase bridges, the wrought-iron arches of the 1869 Blackfriars Road Bridge will be lightly accented in a slowly evolving warm colour palette.

    Illuminated River saves previously wasted energy through a combination of LED fittings and reduced hours of illumination, with the first phase showing a significant reduction in energy use compared to previous bridge lighting. To reduce pollution through vehicle emissions and to minimise road congestion, during the second construction phase deliveries to the bridge sites are being made by cargo delivery bikes.

    The first phase artwork across London Bridge, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium Bridges has been seen over 20 million times since launching a year ago in Summer 2019. Positively received by the public and critics alike for its contribution to London’s global identity, the project has also received praise for its sensitive attention to London’s historic built environment, and for its focus on sustainability and the ecology of the Thames.

    Neil Mendoza, Government Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal and Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation’s Board of Trustees, said:

    “The extraordinary Illuminated River project moves into its second phase with work starting on five central London bridges (from Blackfriars to Lambeth). This project is a combination of pioneering artistic endeavour and a beautiful, practical lighting contribution to the city’s public realm that will endure for many years. Despite the pandemic we remain on budget and on time. The Illuminated River is a gift to London made possible by the generosity of four world-leading charitable foundations – The Rothschild Foundation, Arcadia, Blavatnik Family Foundation and the Reuben Foundation.”

    Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said:

    "The Illuminated River has been a fantastic addition to our city’s rich history of free and accessible public art. It has helped Londoners and visitors to the capital to see the river in a new way, lighting up our unique bridges and celebrating its huge impact on our lives. It’s great news that work is now beginning on lighting up more bridges for everyone to enjoy."

    Waterloo Bridge Illuminated River artwork © Leo Villareal Studio

    Waterloo bridge currently (June 2020) © James Newton

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