along the central London Thames from Lambeth Bridge to Tower Bridge.

A bench by Waterloo Bridge from where you can watch the ever-changing light show

As many of you will know, the night-time London Thames has been transformed into an extraordinary and lovely work of art, a work of art that is in constant movement. Known as Illuminated River, the first group of the nine bridges to be bathed in light on July 17, 2019 were: Southwark, Millennium, and London Bridges together with Cannon Street Railway Bridge. They were followed in April 2021 by the illumination of Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges, the Golden Jubilee Footbridges, Westminster Bridge and Lambeth Bridge.

The idea, presented to an international design competition instigated by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, was conceived by artist Leo Villareal in collaboration with architects and design consultants Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. And their design won. It was brought into being by the generosity of the Rothschild Foundation, among others, and the dedicated hard work of Director Sarah Gaventa, who surmounted the many administrative and other planning difficulties to bring it to fruition.

Looking through an arch of Southwark Bridge to Cannon Street Railway Bridge beyond

The bridges are illuminated from sunset until 2.00 am every night and, as you walk and pause for a little while, you will see not only orchestrated, changing colours beneath the bridge arches themselves but the infinitely mutating patterns reflected in the restless water below.

Walk by Bridgelight
The following photographs, were taken at different times, criss-crossing the river, starting from Lambeth Bridge and passing downstream by all the central London bridges and ending at Tower Bridge.

Looking at Lambeth Bridge from Victoria Tower Gardens
Lambeth Bridge from the Albert Embankment

Careful consideration by the architects and designers was given to the possible effects on wildlife. Working closely with the London Wildlife Trust and the Zoological Society of London, “they established that there were no bat colonies roosting or feeding on or around the bridges.”, so that one possible objection did not materialise. There were concerns raised initially but careful planning ensured that there has been no “invasive physical construction or any excavation in the river or around the bridges” and the existing amount of direct light onto the water has been reduced.

Approaching Westminster Bridge from the Albert Embankment.
Westminster Bridge and the Tide Gauge seen from the Victoria Embankment.

Another concern raised was tackled so that the architects, in collaboration with the Port of London Authority, ensured that the new lighting was carefully designed so as not to “cause confusion or to dazzle river traffic in any way.”

Hungerford Railway Bridge and the Jubilee footbridges
Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye and, in the distance, the Hungerford Railway and Jubilee footbridges
Waterloo Bridge, the Tower RNLI Station and beyond, the Hungerford Railway and Jubilee Footbridges
Blackfriars Bridge with St. Paul’s in the background
Beneath one of the illuminated arches on Blackfriars Bridge
Millennium Bridge and beyond, Blackfriars Railway Bridge
Southwark Bridge from the north bank
Looking back from an arch of Southwark Bridge
Cannon Street Railway Bridge and the Shard
From Cannon Street Railway Bridge looking back at Southwark Bridge
London Bridge with silhouettes of *dolphins*, mooring points for vessels, giving some protection for the embankment
London Bridge and the Shard
Tower Bridge and HMS BELFAST

Leo Villareal has prepared artwork for Tower Bridge which would subtly mute the present lighting but for the moment, plans are in abeyance. Yet even now Tower Bridge is a fine sight.

Tower Bridge from Tower Bridge Quay

As mentioned above, nine bridges in central London, from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge have so far been illuminated and it is hoped that Vauxhall Bridge, Grosvenor Railway Bridge, Chelsea and Albert Bridges, designs for all which have already been completed, will be illuminated at some stage.

Here is a long-term artistic project for all, that was imaginatively, patiently and resolutely brought into being, and since its creation has inspired musicians, photographers and poets and writers.

In 2021, Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation, reiterated the purpose of the project: “Through the artwork we want people to rediscover the beauty of London’s bridges, and the river Thames that flows beneath them”.

Sources and Further Information
Explore: Illuminated River
See Illuminated River Official Boat Tours
Illuminated River Walking Tours with Marilyn Greene
Poem by Tife Kusoro ‘I would rather look at You’.
Studies on the possible effects on wildlife.

A handy beach…

A visitor on one of thePalace of Westminster markers in 2022

There’s a hole in a South Westminster road with a spaghetti mix of cables including my internet connection, and though BT are doing their best, I can’t work on my blog for fear of being cut off, so here’s a link to an earlier post. Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.