The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, this evening announced that a team led by the internationally acclaimed American light artist Leo Villareal and renowned British architects and urban planners, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, have won the Illuminated River International Design Competition.
The Illuminated River is a design commission on an unprecedented scale: a unified scheme conceived to light central London’s bridges along the River Thames.
The seven month search for a world class team to illuminate the Thames’ bridges in a free, permanent light installation saw submissions from 105 teams in 20 countries around the world. The six shortlisted concepts went on show in a public exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall in November, seen by over 10,000 people.
The winning team will now start to develop the design concepts in collaboration with stakeholders and partners along the river, and in consultation with the public. This work will take place in 2017.
The winning team in full:
Leo Villareal (Lead Artist)
Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (Lead Consultant)
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival
Price & Myers
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “We saw an incredible response to this fascinating competition, showing that London continues to inspire creatives from around the globe, and is open to all. There were some spectacular ideas, and I can’t wait to see the winning design light up the Thames. Huge congratulations to Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands on this fantastic achievement.”
Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation, said: "Leo Villareal’s proven ability to paint with light matched with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ direct experience of building bridges over the Thames was an irresistible and inspirational combination.
"Their scheme is beautiful, ambitious and realisable but always considerate to the environment, lighting levels and energy conservation. The jury is convinced that the winning team will transform the centre of London while remaining true to the spirit and integrity of the Thames and its communities."
The internationally acclaimed American artist, Leo Villareal, came to prominence through his celebrated project, The Bay Lights, which lit San Francisco Bay Bridge for two years. Due to its extraordinary popularity, the installation has been revived this year as a permanent element of the cityscape and adopted by the public as a new icon for the city. He trained as a sculptor and has been working with light and computer code for more than a decade, creating major installations, sculptures and public projects that have captivated audiences all over the world. His work is in the permanent collections of museums including MoMA New York and the National Gallery of Art Washington. Most recently in London he participated in the Hayward Gallery’s acclaimed exhibition, Lightshow.
Award-winning architects, design consultants and urban planners, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, have worked on major projects across London including the Golden Jubilee footbridges and have a 25-year relationship with communities and businesses in London’s South Bank, having created the area’s urban design strategy and worked with the Coin Street Community Builders to regenerate the area through the development of co-operative housing, and commercial ventures to support new urban realm initiatives.
Leo Villareal said: "I'm delighted and humbled by the fact that the jury went with an artistically-driven vision for the Illuminated River. The whole team shares a belief in the power of large-scale public culture and art to enrich our cities. We are deeply committed to this project. In order to nuance the concept design and create presence and legibility, we intend to take time to study the river in all its manifestations. We want to listen to Londoners in developing the scheme to deliver at all levels of art and light, urban design and architecture, the environment and sustainability. Our aim is for a lighting masterplan which reduces pollution and wasted energy, is sensitive to history and ecology and subtly rebalances the ambient lighting on the river to provide a beautiful night time experience for residents and visitors."
The Illuminated River Foundation is working with many stakeholders along the Thames supported by the Mayor of London and the City of London Corporation. Its growing list of key partners include Cross River Partnership, Historic England, London & Partners, Network Rail, Port of London Authority, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Southbank London, Tideway, Totally Thames, Thames Estuary Partnership, Transport for London and Westminster City Council.
The Illuminated River Foundation will raise the funds for the costs of the project from private and philanthropic sources rather than the public purse. The Foundation has already announced the first pledges totalling £10 million in November. This includes £5 million from the Arcadia Fund (Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing) and £5 million from the Rothschild Foundation.
Seed funding of £ 100,000 was granted for The Illuminated River from the Greater London Authority, to support the process for the design competition, alongside funding of £250,000 from the Rothschild Foundation, and a contribution of £500,000 from the City of London Corporation (via the Bridge House Estates) towards the delivery of the first phase.
Notes to Editors
About the winning proposal
The scheme proposes a kinetic rhythm of light across each bridge which is sensitive and site specific. The bridges will be used as the canvas for a subtle, gently changing light sculpture which reveals and celebrate the architectural qualities of each structure. This will be created using computer code which monitors and responds to the ebbs and flows of the river and pedestrians, translating this activity into a dynamic and painterly lighting experience, a ‘current’ which allows an ecosystem of light to blossom.
The Illuminated River Foundation is an independent charity, set up to lead and fundraise for the project. The Illuminated River Foundation is working with many stakeholders along the Thames supported by the Mayor of London and the City of London Corporation. Its growing list of key partners include Cross River Partnership, Historic England, London & Partners, Network Rail, Port of London Authority, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Southbank London, Tideway, Totally Thames, Thames Estuary Partnership, Transport for London and Westminster City Council.
Chair: Hannah Rothschild
Hannah Rothschild is a writer, a filmmaker and Chair of The National Gallery. She is the co-founder of the Artist on Film trust and a trustee of Tate and Waddesdon Manor. Her biography, 'The Baroness', was published in the UK and USA. Her first novel, 'The Improbability of Love', was published by Bloomsbury in May 2015 and in the USA by Knopf in November 2015. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her documentaries have been shown on the BBC, HBO and at film festivals including Telluride and the London Film Festival. Working Title and Ridley Scott have optioned her original screenplays.
Director: Sarah Gaventa MA (RCA)
Sarah is a public space and public art expert and curator, and was previously Director of Public Space at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, she recently curated ‘Out There: Our Post War Public Art’ exhibition at Somerset House for Historic England. She has a degree in art history and a MA from the Royal College of Art/ V&A. She is an honorary Fellow of the Landscape Institute for her outstanding contribution to landscape and a co-founder of the London Festival of Architecture.
The Illuminated River Competition:
The Illuminated River International Design Competition has been run in accordance with EU procurement guidelines and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The competition has been advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) on behalf of the Illuminated River Foundation and has been organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants.
The shortlisted proposals:
- Blurring Boundaries
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
- The Eternal Story of the River Thames
AL_A, Asif Kapadia, Simon Stephens, SEAM Design, Arup, GROSS. MAX., Mark Filip, Soundings and DP9
- Synchronizing the City: Its Natural and Urban Rhythms
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, Montagu Evans, Pentagram, Price & Myers
- A River Ain't Too Much To Light
Les Éclairagistes Associés (L.E.A.), ecqi ltd. and Federico Pietrella in association with GVA Lighting Europe Limited and ewo srl
- Thames Nocturne
Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens with Studio Dekka, Daisy Froud, Elliott Wood, Jackson Coles and Professor John Tyrer
The Jury praised all the teams for their creative responses and particularly acknowledged the work of the team led by AL_A, who were awarded an honourable mention.
Lord Rothschild, Chairman, RIT Capital Partners plc, Chairman, Rothschild Foundation
Hannah Rothschild, Chair, Illuminated River Foundation
Malcolm Reading, Architect and Competition Director (Professional Chair) Professor Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies and Director, LSE Cities and the Urban Age Programme
Michael Craig-Martin, Artist
Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica
Dame Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Galleries 1991-2016 Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery
Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, City Hall
James Turrell, Artist
High resolution press images available from: