Mayor of London asks artists to brighten up Thames bridges

One of Sadiq Khan’s first major cultural works since being elected as the Mayor of London will be commissioning artists to “brighten up” London’s bridges.


Calling on “the world’s brightest minds”, Khan will be asking artists “to come up with ideas to create a permanent light art installation” which will span between the Albert Bridge in Chelsea and Tower Bridge in the City.

The project will pass 17 bridges, all of which are historic London monuments as well as vital thoroughfares for the city. Among those included are: Albert Bridge, Chelsea Bridge, Grosvenor Bridge, Nine Elms Bridge (in development), Vauxhall Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Hungerford Bridge and Jubilee Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, The Garden Bridge (in development), Blackfriars Bridge, Blackfriars Railway Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge, London Bridge, Tower Bridge.

The project, which is called ‘The Illuminated River’, will require artists to create an “elegant and charismatic light installation” harnessing the “most innovative, green and sustainable technologies.” When completed, the Mayor hopes it will be the world’s longest free, permanent outdoor river gallery, “creating a ribbon of light through the city at night and revitalising public spaces along the river’s banks.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to breathe new life through the heart of London each night in a new, permanent, fluid light art installation across the capital’s historic bridges.”

“It will throw a spotlight on the river and its banks,” Khan added, while “supporting London’s burgeoning night-time economy.”

Khan also said that The Illuminated River project will be “a dazzling, free outdoor art gallery, for Londoners and all of our visitors to enjoy would encourage new investment and promote our great city to the rest of the world. With the right design, we can remind the world that London continues to be the global leader in innovation, sustainability and artistic creativity.”

Competition entrants have to create the “most forward-thinking and environmentally friendly designs” to win first place. Only those projects which will “enhance London’s status as a low-carbon beacon and a world leader in cutting edge technology and engineering” will be shortlisted.

The Illuminated River International Design Competition is commissioned by a new charity, The Illuminated River Foundation, supported by The Rothschild Foundation. The project has been developed collaboratively by a number of organisations with responsibility for the bridges and the river, including The City of London; the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; Network Rail; the Port of London Authority; Transport for London and Westminster Council.
Protecting and promoting London’s premier position as a leading cultural city is one of the Mayor’s “top priorities.” The Illuminated River has, however, already been criticised by some as “yet another vanity project,” just like the controversial £60 million “Garden Bridge.”

Khan, however, insists that the project “will encourage the expansion of a vibrant night-time economy,” which is another top priority for the new Mayor. In his bid to grow the 24 hour economy in the capital, the Mayor will appoint a new ‘Night Tsar’ who will “help to protect London’s live music venues, pubs, and clubs, as well as overseeing the delayed introduction of a 24 hour weekend tube service beginning in August.

Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, Mark Boleat, said: “This project will transform London’s historic river and the City of London Corporation is very proud to play a part in making it happen.”

Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation, said: “Even by London’s standards, this project is unprecedented in boldness and imagination: the opportunity to influence and transform the look, identity and experience of the world’s greatest city.” She added “we’re looking for the finest artists, architects, designers, engineers, technologists and specialists to work together to help realise this exciting ambition. What matters is bold and innovative thinking to put the art back into London’s greatest artery.”

The shortlisted schemes will go on show in a public exhibition at the end of the year, after which a winner will be announced.

For full details of how to enter the competition, please see the Search Statement available on the competition website at:



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