Illuminated River International Design Competition launched

Ambitious public art project will use light to transform London’s relationship with the Thames after dark

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© Malcolm Reading Consultants/Luke Hayes
  • Competition focuses on central London’s celebrated bridges between Albert and Tower.
  • Creative teams asked to submit details of proposed team and experience at the competition’s first stage.
  • The five or more finalists who reach the second stage will create concept designs for four bridges – Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea – along with a design masterplan for all the bridges.
  • Competition deadline 14:00 BST July 7, 2016.

The Illuminated River Foundation and the Mayor of London today [Thursday, 2 June 2016] launched a global search for an outstanding team of artists, designers, engineers, architects, technologists and other specialists to create inspirational light art on London’s bridges to reinvigorate the River Thames at the heart of the capital.

The two-stage Illuminated River International Design Competition will award the commission to create an elegant and charismatic light art installation of world-class quality for all of the 17 road, rail and pedestrian bridges between Albert and Tower (for the full list see Notes to Editors).

The project will provide London with a new – and free – permanent attraction and is being supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Mayor of London, the City of London, Westminster City Council, Transport for London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Network Rail. Around £20m in funds will be raised, largely from private sources, by the coordinating charity the Illuminated River Foundation, which is supported by the Rothschild Foundation. The competition is being run according to EU procurement guidelines and is independently organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, whose recent work includes competitions for the Museum of London, the gold medal-winning UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015 and Tintagel Castle Bridge. Full details of the project and how to enter the competition are on the dedicated competition website.

Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation, said:

‘Even by London’s standards, this project is unprecedented in boldness and imagination: the opportunity to influence and transform the look, identity and experience of the world’s greatest city.

‘We’re looking for the finest artists, architects, designers, engineers, technologists and specialists to work together to help realise this exciting ambition. Collaborators can be from different disciplines with varying degrees of experience.

‘What matters is bold and innovative thinking to put the art back into London’s greatest artery.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said:

‘No design is sought at the first stage, simply a proposal of a multi-disciplinary team and evidence of previous experience – competitors will need to get these in by the deadline of July 7th 2016.’

The (at least) five creative teams who reach the second stage of the competition will be asked to design a concept scheme for four specific bridges – Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea – responding to their unique and individual characters, and an overall masterplan for the full run of 17 bridges. An honorarium of £15,000 will be awarded to each of the shortlisted teams following the selection of the winner.

The competition jury includes Lord Rothschild OM GBE, Chairman of RIT Capital Partners plc, Chairman of the Rothschild Foundation, philanthropist, notably in the arts, and the Rothschild family member responsible for Waddesdon Manor; Hannah Rothschild, Chair of the Illuminated River Foundation, writer, filmmaker and Chair of the National Gallery Board of Trustees; Justine Simons OBE, Head of Culture, City Hall; Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery; Professor Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies and Director, LSE Cities and Urban Age; and Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica. Other jurors may join the process subsequently; these will be advertised on the competition website. The jury will be advised by the Competition Director, Malcolm Reading.

The shortlist of finalists is expected to be announced in late summer 2016, and, following an exhibition of concept and masterplan designs, the winner announced in December 2016.

Once the competition has concluded, the winning design will be developed to RIBA Stage 4, with relevant permissions secured over nine to 12 months in 2017.

Implementation of the first phase of the project (anticipated to comprise up to eight bridges between Westminster and Tower, but subject to change depending on planned work schedules to the bridges and other relevant river works) will take place in 2018.

Implementation of the second phase comprising the remaining bridges is likely to take place during 2019 to 2020.