The Illuminated River completed to create the world’s longest public art commission

The stretch of bridges from Waterloo to Lambeth. Credit: Jason Hawkes


The Illuminated River Foundation recently completed one of the world’s most ambitious art projects; The Illuminated River.

Officially the longest public art commission in the world, this record-breaking instillation spans 3.2 miles across all 9 of London’s River Thames bridges. It encompasses the constitutional heart of London, incorporating bridges alongside sites of significant cultural and historic importance including Lambeth Palace and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Palace of Westminster, as well as contemporary landmarks such as the London Eye and the modernist Southbank complex.

Created by internationally acclaimed American artist, Leo Villareal, in collaboration with award-winning British architects, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, the project seeks to transform the nocturnal scenes of London.


Westminster Bridge after the project’s completion. Credit: James Newton


LED lights have been installed along bridges on London’s River Thames, which include London Bridge, Westminster Bridge and Southwark Bridge. The installations draw inspiration from the river’s history and its bridges’ architectural and engineering heritage.

Each bridge has their own dynamic display of colors inspired its own unique history, architecture and function. This unique piece of public art will stand for a minimum of 10 years and will be seen more than 90 million times a year.


Lambeth Bridge after the project’s completion. Credit: Paul Crawley


The final phase of the project was completed in April 2021.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation has been a proud supporter of the project since its launch in 2019. Its devoted support allowed workers to accelerate the final phase of construction process, ensuring that the design, fabrication, and planning could progress, in spite of restrictions imposed due to Covid-19. This has allowed The Illuminated River to be completed, both on time and within budget.


Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges. Credit: Paul Crawley


About Illuminated River Foundation

An independent charity, the Illuminated River Foundation was set up to deliver the major public artwork, Illuminated River. The Foundation is committed to raising private funding for the installation and maintenance of the project, and has already received generous funding from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin through Arcadia, the Rothschild Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the Reuben Foundation. Seed funding was awarded from the Mayor of London’s Office for the initial competition, and from the City of London Corporation for replacing light fittings on London Bridge.

Illuminated River is supported by the Mayor of London and governed by an independent board of trustees chaired by Neil Mendoza, Government Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal and Provost of Oriel College, Oxford University. The Foundation is led by curator and public realm champion Sarah Gaventa, who was formerly Director of CABE Space at the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment.