Illuminated River

The Brief

Illuminated River is the longest public art commission in the world, spanning the nine road, rail and pedestrian bridges from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge, two of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Designed and programmed by New York based artist Leo Villareal, the illuminations are unique to each bridge and have been created to form a ribbon of subtly shifting light and colour inspired by Impressionist and English Romantacist painters.

The aim from the outset was to prioritise environmental sensitivity, and great care was taken to reduce energy consumption and light spill to ensure the project had a positive effect on fish, bird and bat populations.


Illuminated River Foundation




Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Leo Villareal


  • Arts
  • Community


  • Project Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Health & Safety (CDM)

The Challenge

The project posed a number of challenges in relation to the approval process, the specification of the fixtures and fittings used and carrying the works out over the Thames which itself is one of the world’s busiest river ways. The bridges fall under the control of a number of stakeholders, including Network Rail, Port of London Authority and various London Boroughs, and securing the necessary approvals for the installations required patient and considered negotiation with each. The installation sits above the river and is subject to continual moist conditions, the team had to carefully consider this in the specification of the works with a number of light fittings being specially designed for the project.

With the works being above the Thames and on live bridges close coordination with the Port of London Authority was needed together with daily review of tides. Specific safety systems such as the provision of safety boats, persons trained in rescue from water, and partial closures of bridge sections were put in place. Added to this many of the site operatives were trained in rope and harness techniques to allow them to work safely on the external faces and underside of the bridges

The Outcome

The completed project creates a free, open air cultural experience which it’s estimated will be seen by over 90 million people over the course of the installation’s 10 year life span. The customised lighting software creates a series of never repeated patterns on the underside of the bridges’ spans and sides, thus ‘combining art and architecture’.

Illuminated River has won numerous accolades including the Dezeen 2022 Architectural Lighting Design of the Year, a 2021 Civic Trust Award, the RTPI’s Planning Award for Excellence in Heritage and Culture, and a 2020 Planning Award for Best Use of Arts, Culture or Sport in Place-making.

Reduction in net light spill
0 %
Owners & stakeholders
Bridges spanning 3.2 miles
“I am delighted that Illuminated River is bringing more free and accessible artwork to Londoners.. and [will] transform the way we think about the Thames.”
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Other Projects We’ve Completed Include


Newport Street Gallery

White Eagle Lodge