Illuminated River Design Competition shows London is top destination for global creative talent

105 teams enter competition; shortlist announced

05 Illuminated River announced

© Malcolm Reading Consultants / Luke Hayes

  • 105 teams (made up of 346 individual firms) entered the competition with nearly half the submissions coming from overseas
  • Six shortlisted teams will now create concept design lighting schemes for London’s famous bridges
  • Finalist teams include celebrated and emerging artists and architects and feature international collaborations
  • Artists James Turrell and Sir Michael Craig-Martin, together with former Serpentine Gallery Director Dame Julia Peyton-Jones and co-founder of Second Home, Rohan Silva, will complete the jury

Design teams from around the world have entered a competition for a permanent light installation to breathe new life into the Thames, showing that London remains a world class leader for art, design and innovation.

The Illuminated River Foundation announced today [September 5, 2016] that the first stage of the Illuminated River International Design Competition, backed by the Mayor of London and the Rothschild Foundation, attracted 105 team submissions from around the world.

Forty-seven per cent of the teams came from overseas, demonstrating that London remains a top destination for international designers, artists, engineers and technologists post-Brexit.

No design was sought at the first stage, rather competitors made submissions based on experience, past projects and team composition. Six finalists will now go on to develop concept design lighting schemes for four bridges – Westminster, Waterloo, London and Chelsea – along with a design masterplan for all the 17 celebrated bridges between Albert and Tower.

The teams’ design challenge is to create an elegant and charismatic light installation that will be forward-thinking and environmentally-friendly, enhancing the capital’s status as a low carbon beacon and a world leader in cutting edge technology and engineering.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

‘This competition is a really exciting opportunity – the shortlisted design teams will now have their work showcased in a world class cultural city. It’s fantastic that submissions have come from so many different countries: the competition shows that London is open to talent from all around the globe.
‘The Illuminated River will breathe new life into the Thames and create a dazzling outdoor gallery for Londoners to enjoy each night, showing that our capital remains a leader in innovation, sustainability and artistic creativity. I wish all the finalists luck in the next stage of the competition, and look forward to seeing the ideas they come up with.’

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

‘The response to the Illuminated River competition was extraordinary and humbling: more than 100 teams entered the competition, including some of the leading international names in design, lighting, technical and the arts.
‘The final shortlist represents an exhilarating mix of talent, inspiration and design approach. In November the finalists’ concept designs will be unveiled, and London will have six possible visions of how the river and the city might be transformed after dark.’

The six finalist teams (in alphabetical order) are :

  • Adjaye Associates with Chris Ofili, Thukral & Tagra, Doug Aitken, AKTII, HPF (Hurley Palmer Flatt), Four Communications, DP9, Plan A and DHA Designs
  • AL_A with Asif Kapadia, Simon Stephens, SEAM Design and GROSS.MAX
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro with L’Observatoire International, Arup, Transsolar, Jennifer Tipton and Oliver Beer
  • Les Éclairagistes Associés with ecqi, ewo, Federico Pietrella, and GVA Lighting Europe Limited
  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Future\Pace, Leo Villareal, Pentagram, Price & Myers, Atelier Ten, Beckett Rankine and Core Five
  • Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens with Electrolight, Daisy Froud and Elliott Wood

Malcolm Reading, Competition Organiser, said:

‘The combination of London’s emblematic river, the Foundation’s inspired vision, and support from London’s most notable civic stakeholders has attracted competitors from diverse cultural backgrounds.
‘This shortlist brims with promise: these teams are at the intersection of art, architecture, technology, engineering, film and literature. They have put together fascinating combinations of skills and we expect great things of them.’

Notable contemporary artists featuring on the six finalist teams include:

  • Chris Ofili, a British Turner Prize-winning painter who represented Britain at the 2003 Venice Biennale in collaboration with David Adjaye
  • Asif Kapadia, a British BAFTA, Cannes and Oscar-winning director whose most notable works are the documentaries Amy and Senna
  • Jennifer Tipton, a MacArthur Fellow who is regarded as one of the most versatile designers for theatre and performance lighting
  • Federico Pietrella, an Italian artist who has developed a unique style using a rubber date stamp and blue ink as his medium of choice
  • Leo Villareal, the American sculptor and installation artist responsible for The Bay Lights, a public light installation on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
  • Simon Heijdens, a Dutch installation artist whose works have been installed and exhibited in over 50 public spaces worldwide, including the permanent collections of MoMA, the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, and the Art Institute of Chicago

Concept designs will go on display to the public in November, in London and online.

The Illuminated River Foundation also released details of new jurors who will complete the international competition jury:

  • Sir Michael Craig-Martin CBE RA, conceptual artist
  • Dame Julia Peyton-Jones DBE, Director Serpentine Galleries 1991-2016
  • Rohan Silva, co-founder at Second Home
  • James Turrell (honorary member), space and light artist

They join previously-announced jurors: 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, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, 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. The jury will be advised by the Competition Director, Malcolm Reading.

The Illuminated River project will provide London with a new, free permanent attraction and is 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 Illuminated River Foundation, the coordinating charity which is supported by the Rothschild Foundation.

It is anticipated that jury interviews with the shortlisted practices will take place in late November 2016, with the winner announced in early December.

For further updates, please visit the competition website.