For more than two millennia, the River Thames was been integral to London’s evolution, shaping its communities and driving its economy. It continues to provide a huge source of pleasure for both Londoners and the nearly thirty million visitors drawn to London each year.
In daylight, the Thames speaks for itself, but on winter afternoons and at night it fades into a ribbon of darkness. London’s natural centrepiece becomes shadowy and obscure, inhibiting the atmosphere in many of the public spaces surrounding it.
Yet, with light as a medium for public art fascinating artists and audiences across the world, and with new lighting technology dramatically reducing energy consumption and making cities greener, London now has the opportunity to creatively reclaim the river after dark.
The Illuminated River Foundation will celebrate London’s famous river through one of the most ambitious public art initiatives in Europe in recent years. This will provide London with a new, free, permanent attraction, allowing the public to enjoy the river, all day-round, and all year. The project will act as an exemplar, encouraging engagement with the latest green technologies.
The funds for this circa £20m project will be raised, largely from private sources, by the Illuminated River Foundation, backed by the Rothschild Foundation. A broad coalition of public supporters and stakeholders includes the Mayor of London, amongst others.
Through the Illuminated River International Design Competition, the Foundation sought an inspired multi-disciplinary design team to create an elegant and charismatic light art installation of world-class quality for 17 of London’s most celebrated bridges – those between Albert and Tower.
For artists and lighting designers, engineers, architects and technologists and others, the project offered the rarest of opportunities – to influence the look, identity and experience of one of the world’s greatest cities.
The commission for the project will be awarded through this two-stage OJEU design competition. No design was required at the first stage.
The first stage of the selection process closed at 14.00 BST 7 July 2016. The shortlist of six teams was announced on 5 September 2016. The competition finalists were asked to conceive a design masterplan for the project, while providing a concept design for four specific bridges: Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea that responds to their unique and individual characteristics. Concept designs were on display to the public at Royal Festival Hall in London throughout November 2016, and can be found online here.
In December 2016, the jury selected the team led by Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands as the winner of the competition.
The Foundation sought an inspired multi-disciplinary creative team with artistic vision and lighting expertise to deliver this innovative and exciting project on time and without exceeding the budget.
The Brief covered architectural lighting (rather than operational lighting) and had two aspects. Firstly, a design masterplan for all 17 main road, rail and pedestrian bridges between Albert Bridge and Tower Bridge (including the proposed Nine Elms Bridge and Garden Bridge).
Secondly, a concept design lighting scheme addressing four individual bridges: Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea and celebrating their unique qualities. These represent a sample of the bridge typologies within the overall masterplan.
An honorarium of £15,000 was awarded to each of the shortlisted teams following selection of the winner.
The winning design team will be offered the commission to provide the detailed design of the full bridge installation (up to RIBA Stage 4) by the Foundation. The multiple bridge owners will assume responsibility for project delivery (with the selected design team retained to ensure design quality in delivery). The project will be phased with the first implementation phase expected to start in 2018 and the second in 2019-2020.
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