What is said to be the longest art installation in the world can be found in London and is the lighting up of the bridges across the Thames.
Illuminated River isn’t just floodlighting the bridges though, as the lights pulse and change over time to a pattern designed by the artist, Leo Villareal, working with British architecture practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.
The end result is a long line of art from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge. Illumination on the first four bridges was unveiled in 2019 and five more were completed earlier this year, in April 2021
Each of the bridges has been lit differently, in part as a consequence of them all being built differently, but also to reflect local areas. So the Millenium Bridge has thin strobes of light flitting across its thin structure, whereas the bridges on either side of Parliament are solidly glowing with Green and Red for the two Houses.
Lighting up the bridges wasn’t just a case of trying to make them look interesting at night, as there’s nature to think about, and it turns out many of the fishes in the Thames are nocturnal, so the lighting also had to be designed to minimise how deep it penetrates into the river to avoid disturbing the wildlife. The lights that used to floodlight the bridges in plain white were also left on all night, whereas the new lights are turned off at 2am.
It’s quite easy to take in the Illuminated River from the riverside, but the best way is to drift under the bridges on a boat, so either take a trip on a Thames Clipper boat, or there are dedicated boat tours taking in the bridges.
Save the startup seed funding from the City of London, the whole project has been funded by donations, including setting aside some funding if the lights are to be removed after their initial 10-year approval, or if the various bridge owners decide to retain them.