Lonely Planet Writer

London’s bridges to be lit up as £20 million permanent art installation

A £20 million plan to illuminate all London’s major bridges has been announced. According to the Evening Standard, the project would see 17 crossings, from Albert Bridge in Chelsea to Tower Bridge in the City, lit up at night. It would form a permanent art installation called The Illuminated River that would aim to both provide a spectacle and encourage people to enjoy the Thames at night.

View from Tate Modern gallery across Thames, London. Image by Matt Munro

Architects, designers and engineers are being invited to submit plans for the scheme’s execution via a public competition. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who launched the scheme, said it could transform the city. “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, and extend their daytime bustle and buzz into the darker hours, supporting London’s burgeoning night-time economy. 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.”

London's Tower Bridge.
London’s Tower Bridge. Image by Jim Trodel / CC BY-SA 2.0

Applicants have been asked to ensure that their design is environmentally friendly and visually spectacular. Applications close on 7 July, and the shortlisted schemes will go on display at the end of 2016, before a winner is chosen. The £20 million project will be largely privately funded.

For many years the only crossing in the city was London Bridge, which was first built in timber by the Romans, then in stone in 1209. It has been replaced several times since, and the 19th century structure was sold in 1968 to American entrepreneur Robert P McCulloch, who relocated it to Arizona. According to a persistent myth he thought he was buying the grander Tower Bridge, although both McCulloch and the sellers always denied the claim.