London's Illuminated River project to be 'longest public art commission in the world'

14/01/2019
Dominic Browne

FM Conway has secured the first phase of the Illuminated River project, which once completed will span 4.5 nautical miles of the River Thames and be the longest public art commission in the world.

Designed by artist Leo Villareal and architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Illuminated River will see the installation of lighting artwork on up to 15 central London bridges, from Albert to Tower Bridge.

'The artwork will subtly unfold compositions of sequenced light patterns across the bridge structures, using dynamic colours and shifting hues inspired by the Thames paintings of Impressionist Masters and English Romantic artists,' FM Conway said.

'Illuminated River’s energy-efficient LED technologies, smart networks and customised software will provide a long-term sustainable lighting solution for the bridges. Using networks of responsive LEDs, the project will reduce existing energy consumption and light pollution on the river , lowering levels of light spill into the river. Illuminated River will provide an improved environment for the Thames flora and fauna, addressing the environmental impact of existing light pollution.'

FM Conway has been awarded the contract for the first phase of the project, which will see the business install lighting on London, Southwark, Cannon Street Railway and Millennium Bridges.

The infrastructure firm will work closely with the Illuminated River Foundation, the charitable organisation set up to deliver the project. Initial works will begin in early 2019, with completion scheduled for summer 2019.

Through its long-term relationships with over half of London’s boroughs, FM Conway already has responsibility for over 850 bridges and highways structures across the capital, including key Thames River crossings and up to 150,000 lights.

It also worked with the Greater London Authority to deliver a colour-changing LED lighting system on seven of the capital’s bridges for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Ed Barford, head of structures at FM Conway, said: 'This project brings together our expertise in lighting and structures to help deliver a unique artwork for the capital. The bridges across the River Thames are integral to how Londoners and visitors alike identify with, and travel through, the city and we are looking forward to working with the Illuminated River Foundation to deliver such an exciting project.

'This first phase will see FM Conway light up four of the capital’s best-known bridges, setting the standard for the rest of the initiative.' 

Neil Mendoza, chair of the Board of Trustees at the Illuminated River Foundation, said: “The Illuminated River project will be an art commission on an unprecedented scale – using light to boost connectivity, economic activity and public enjoyment of the city at night, whilst improving conditions for the natural environment in and alongside the river.'

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