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Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ designs to light up Thames bridges go to planners

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Plans for a £20 million installation that will light up bridges along the River Thames designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and US artist Leo Villareal have been submitted to planners

The Illuminated River Foundation has lodged 30 planning applications with London’s riverside authorities for its proposals to create a 2.5-mile-long light artwork across 15 of the capital’s bridges.

Architect Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and Leo Villareal are collaborating on the Illuminated River scheme, which was picked as the winning entry in an international competition organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants in 2016.

The installation, expected to become the longest public art commission in the world, could stay in place for up to a decade and will comprise of a colour-changing lighting scheme synchronised across crossings from Albert Bridge to Tower Bridge.

While each will be lit differently, the artwork is designed to unify the 15 bridges and will use innovative customised software to create ‘sequenced patterns of light’.

The original plans were for 17 bridges but the final number was recalculated to take into account the scrapping of the proposed Garden Bridge and another at Nine Elms which is yet to be built. 

Villareal, known for his Bay Lights project which temporarily lit up San Francisco’s Bay Bridge in 2013 before being reinstalled permanently, said the light colours were inspired by the work of ‘the Impressionist masters who painted the Thames’.

He added: ‘Once complete, I want the artwork to respond to the cultural creativity of the city, each bridge forming a unique layer in the urban landscape, creating a sense of discovery and revealing the river as a continuous living system.’

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands director Alex Lifschutz described the installation as ‘a wonderful piece of art by a hugely gifted artist and also a quintessential public space project, one that tilts the balance of the Thames away from the domination of cars and street lighting to allow Londoners to appreciate their city literally in a new light.’

Their design beat rival bids from 105 practices across the world, including David Adjaye, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Sam Jacob Studio, Lyon-based Les Éclairagistes Associés and Amanda Levete (AL_A). 

The Illuminated River Foundation is backed by the Rothschild Foundation, which has donated £5 million to the project as well as the Arcadia Fund.

The work will be installed in phases, with the first four – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and the Millennium bridges – being lit up in spring 2019. The project is due to be complete in 2022.

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