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Revealed: Illuminated River contest designs


The six finalists in the contest to design a £20 million light installation covering all 17 central London bridges have released their final designs  

The concepts have been drawn up by David Adjaye, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Amanda Levete (AL_A), 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 Malcolm Reading Consultants’ Illuminated River competition to create a permanent light installation that will ‘breathe new life’ into the Thames. 

Backed by the Rothschild Foundation, which has donated £5 million to the project, the scheme aims to 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 Cai Guo-Qiang, Chris Ofili, Larry Bell, Jeremy Deller, Philippe Parreno, Richard Woods, Mariko Mori, Lorna Simpson, Teresita Fernández, Joana Vasconcelos, Angela Bulloch, Thukral & Tagra, Katharina Grosse, Glenn Ligon, Doug Aitken, Tomás Saraceno, onedotzero digital consultants, Plan A Consultants, DHA, Hurley Palmer Flatt, AKT II, AECOM, Arup, Sir Robert McAlpine, Tavernor Consultancy, DP9, Four Communications, Hayes Davidson digital visualisers, Bosch and iGuzzini
  • AL_A with Asif Kapadia, Simon Stephens, SEAM Design, Arup, GROSS. MAX., Mark Filip, Soundings and DP9
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Oliver Beer, Arup, Copper Consultancy, L’Observatoire International, Penoyre & Prasad, Jennifer Tipton and Transsolar
  • Leo Villareal with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and Future\Pace, Atelier Ten, Beckett Rankine, Bradley Hemmings, Core Five, Futurecity, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, MBNA Thames Clippers, Montagu Evans, Pentagram, Price & Myers
  • Les Éclairagistes Associés, ecqi and Federico Pietrella in association with GVA Lighting Europe Limited and ewo 
  • Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens with Studio Dekka, Daisy Froud, Elliott Wood, Jackson Coles and Professor John Tyrer

The shortlisted teams, which each received a £15,000 honorarium, were asked to draw up conceptual proposals for Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea bridges, plus a masterplan for the entire project. 

The winner will be announced on 8 December following an exhibition of the designs at the Royal Festival Hall (Level 3 and 4, Blue Side) which opens on 9 November and runs until 29 November.

Responses and comments on the schemes can be submitted here

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: ‘I am delighted that the Illuminated River Foundation has put these ideas on show. We believe that the Illuminated River will not only be a wonderful celebration of the River Thames, London’s vital artery, but will make a major contribution to the growing importance of London’s night-time economy, underlining London as a world class city, and a centre for creative industries.’

The Illuminated River Foundation is an independent charity, set up to lead and fundraise for the project. The foundation is chaired by Hannah Rothschild with Sarah Gaventa as its director.


Hannah Rothschild Image by Harry Cory Wright

Hannah Rothschild, chair of the Illuminated River Foundation 

‘Since the founding of London, the mighty Thames has been the city’s main artery, linking north and south, east and west, encouraging business, activity and recreation.

’But at night, the river becomes a ribbon of darkness, a place that few enjoy and at odds with the ambition to make London a 24-hour city. This project will bring light, energy, beauty and recreation to the river and at the flick of a switch, transform the city at night.’


Which concept is your favourite?

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Readers' comments (2)

  • My favourite is the ALA entry.

    Partly because they are trying to work with the various architectures and relationships between bridges and river, rather than trying to dominate or own the site.

    But mainly because they appear to have completely ignored the Garden Bridge from their plans, and thereby making their proposal both more realistic than the others and making a rational, sensible statement.

    A shame that the other designs didn't also decide to remove the Garden Bridge from their application, by including it they are slightly helping to legitimise it.

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  • Adjaye's for picking a great mix of artists and not trying to draw them all together with a coherent theme. He has also put in the coolest presentations. Whichever is chosen I hope they find the money to do at least one bridge properly.

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