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Stars light up shortlist in Illuminated River contest

New light bridge
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A six-strong shortlist, which includes David Adjaye and Amanda Levete (AL_A), has been named in the Illuminated River contest – an ambitious £20 million light installation covering all 17 central London bridges

The list is completed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro – the US practice also in the running for the RCA’s new £108 million addition, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Sam Jacob Studio and Lyon-based Les Éclairagistes Associés.

A total of 105 teams  – nearly half of which were based overseas – entered the Malcolm Reading Consultants-run competition to create a permanent light installation that will ‘breathe new life’ into the Thames. 

Backed by the Rothschild Foundation, the project will transform 17 road, rail and pedestrian crossings between Albert Bridge in Chelsea and Tower Bridge near the City of London. It is planned for phased completion between 2018 and 2020.

The full shortlist:

Adjaye Associates with Chris Ofili, Thukral & Tagra, Doug Aitken, AKTII, HPF (Hurley Palmer Flatt), Four Communications, DP9, Plan A and DHA Designs
AL_A with Asif Kapadia, Simon Stephens, SEAM Design and GROSS.MAX
Diller Scofidio + Renfro with L’Observatoire International, Arup, Transsolar, Jennifer Tipton and Oliver Beer
Les Éclairagistes Associés with ecqi, ewo, Federico Pietrella, and GVA Lighting Europe
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Future\Pace, Leo Villareal, Pentagram, Price & Myers, Atelier Ten, Beckett Rankine and Core Five
Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens with Electrolight, Daisy Froud and Elliott Wood

Malcolm Reading of Malcolm Reading Consultants said: ‘This shortlist brims with promise; these teams are at the intersection of art, architecture, technology, engineering, film and literature. They have put together fascinating combinations of skills and we expect great things of them.’

The shortlisted teams will now draw up conceptual proposals for Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea bridges, plus a masterplan for the entire project. 

A winner will be announced in December following an exhibition of the designs, with the finalists each receiving a £15,000 honorarium.

Judges include Rothschild foundation chair Jacob Rothschild, LSE urban studies professor Ricky Burdett and City Hall head of culture Ralph Rugoff.

The successful team will develop the scheme up to RIBA Stage 4 and will be required to secure all relevant planning permissions during 2017.

Several of the central London crossings – including Chelsea Bridge, the Golden Jubilee Footbridges and London Bridge – already have lighting schemes, although there is currently no co-ordinated public art strategy for all of them.

Supporting stakeholders of the project include London mayor Sadiq Khan, the City of London, Westminster City Council, Transport for London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Network Rail.

Khan said: ‘This competition is a really exciting opportunity; the shortlisted design teams will now have their work showcased in a world-class cultural city. It’s fantastic that submissions have come from so many different countries; the competition shows that London is open to talent from all around the globe.

‘The Illuminated River will breathe new life into the Thames and create a dazzling outdoor gallery for Londoners to enjoy each night, showing that our capital remains a leader in innovation, sustainability and artistic creativity. I wish all the finalists luck in the next stage of the competition, and look forward to seeing the ideas they come up with.’

The competition comes almost four years after OMA’s Rothschild Bank headquarters, overlooking Mansion House and the Bank of England, was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.


Hannah Rothschild Image by Harry Cory Wright

Hannah Rothschild Image by Harry Cory Wright

Hannah Rothschild, chair of the Illuminated River Foundation 

‘The response to the Illuminated River competition was extraordinary and humbling: more than 100 teams entered the competition, including some of the leading international names in design, lighting, technical and the arts.

’The final shortlist represents an exhilarating mix of talent, inspiration and design approach. In November the finalists’ concept designs will be unveiled, and London will have six possible visions of how the river ­ and the city ­might be transformed after dark.’

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