Illuminated River (Phase 1)

  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © James Newton
  • © Leo Villareal Studio

Application Type

Civic Trust Awards

Level of Award



Greater London

Local Authority Area

City of London

Information about this scheme

Illuminated River reveals the Thames’s rich heritage and ecology, encouraging people to engage with the river and its riverside areas along an 8.5KM stretch of central London. In 2016 the Illuminated River Foundation invited entries to transform night-time views of the Thames and “bring beauty to places where it is hard to find”. Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) won the competition in collaboration with the artist Leo Villareal, acclaimed for his lighting of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. It captures, connects and brings to life the spirit of the river and its many diverse communities. Artistically driven, with Villareal using addressable LED pixels to “paint with light”. The project embraces 9 listed bridges, 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 7 local authorities, 22 wards, 6 parliamentary constituencies and 4 GLA divisions, extending along 8.5km of the Thames from Tower Bridge to Albert Bridge, and responding to the rhythms of nature and social activity.  The team engaged with more than 80 stakeholders, among them wildlife and conservation groups, combining the expertise of more than 20 partners, from the London Wildlife Trust to the RNLI. It has also created data resources including 3D surveys of the bridges, London’s first ever luminance studies, and bat and bird surveys - all now freely available as a resource for London. LDS and Villareal worked with engineers, bridge owners and contractors to capture the essence of each structure. 4 basic luminaires were used to cover all the bridges, computer controls that address every pixel in more than 23,000 fittings, and simple systems to maintain equipment over the 10+ year project life. Free and accessible to all, Illuminated River respects the natural environment, the localities it spans, and their inhabitants. The artwork enhances the bridges’ architecture and history, and our appetite for beauty in our urban surroundings. By revealing the bridges as heritage assets and creating a dynamic artwork for each, Illuminated River enriches the experience of travelling along and across the river at night for everyone, as a view, as a place for contemplation, exploration and inspiration. It renews the city, allowing us to look at its familiarity afresh - opening our eyes to the city’s poetry.



Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands


Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands


Leo Villareal Studio


Illuminated River Foundation

Services Engineer

Atelier Ten

Structural Engineer

Price & Myers

Marine Engineer

Beckett Rankine

Quantity Surveyor

Core Five

Main Contractor

FM Conway

Community Engagement

Iceni Projects


Thompson Environmental Consultants

Environmental Consultant


Planning Consultant

Montagu Evans

Construction Consultant

Jackson Coles


MSA Survey

Light Manufacturer


Community Group

London Wildlife Trust

Primary Use Class

Class E1 - Public Realm