Leo Villareal + Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands win Illuminated River International Design Competition

The Mayor of London praises competition for inspiring creatives around the globe

Malcolm Reading Consultants And Leo Villareal And Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

The Mayor of London announced today [December 7, 2016] that the team led by acclaimed American light artist Leo Villareal and renowned British architects and urban planners, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, has won The Illuminated River International Design Competition.

The six month search for a world class team to illuminate the Thames’ bridges in central London with a free, permanent light installation attracted submissions from 105 teams in 20 countries. Six shortlisted concepts went on show at the Royal Festival Hall in November in an exhibition seen by over 10,000 people, while 15,000 visited the website run by the competition organisers, Malcolm Reading Consultants.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said:

‘We saw an incredible response to this fascinating competition, showing that London continues to inspire creatives from around the globe, and is open to all. There were some spectacular ideas, and I can’t wait to see the winning design light up the Thames. Huge congratulations to Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands on this fantastic achievement.’

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

‘Leo Villareal’s proven ability to paint with light matched with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ direct experience of building bridges over the Thames was an irresistible and inspirational combination.
‘Their scheme is beautiful, ambitious and realisable but always considerate to the environment, lighting levels and energy conservation. The jury is convinced that the winning team will transform the centre of London while remaining true to the spirit and integrity of the Thames and its communities.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said:

‘We very much appreciated the creativity and efforts of all the shortlisted teams. The design challenge combined city-scale impact with a sensitivity to place and the project was rewarded with six very special and elegant propositions.’

Leo Villareal came to prominence through his celebrated project, The Bay Lights, which lit San Francisco Bay Bridge for two years. Due to its extraordinary popularity, the installation has been revived this year as a permanent element of the cityscape and adopted by the public as a new icon for the city. He trained as a sculptor and has been working with light and computer code for more than a decade, creating major installations, sculptures and public projects that have captivated audiences all over the world. His work is in the permanent collections of museums including MoMA, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; he recently participated in the Hayward Gallery’s acclaimed exhibition, Lightshow.

Award-winning architects, design consultants and urban planners, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, have worked on a number of major projects across London including the Golden Jubilee footbridges. They have a 25-year relationship with communities and businesses on London’s South Bank, having created the area’s urban design strategy, and worked with the Coin Street Community Builders to regenerate the area through the development of co-operative housing and commercial ventures to support new urban realm initiatives.

Leo Villareal said:

‘I’m delighted and humbled by the fact that the jury went with an artistically-driven vision for the Illuminated River. The whole team shares a belief in the power of large-scale public culture and art to enrich our cities.
‘We are deeply committed to this project. In order to nuance the concept design and create presence and legibility, we intend to take time to study the river in all its manifestations. We want to listen to Londoners in developing the scheme to deliver at all levels of art and light, urban design and architecture, the environment and sustainability.
‘Our aim is for a lighting masterplan which reduces pollution and wasted energy, is sensitive to history and ecology and subtly rebalances the ambient lighting on the river to provide a beautiful night time experience for residents and visitors.’

The winning team in full:

  • Leo Villareal (Lead Artist)
  • Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (Lead Consultant)
  • Future\Pace (Curator)
  • Atelier Ten
  • Beckett Rankine
  • Bradley Hemmings
  • Core Five
  • Futurecity
  • Greenwich+Docklands International Festival
  • Montagu Evans
  • Pentagram
  • Price & Myers

The eminent competition jury who selected the winning scheme comprised:

  • Lord Rothschild, Chairman, RIT Capital Partners plc, Chairman, Rothschild Foundation
  • Hannah Rothschild, Chair, Illuminated River Foundation
  • Malcolm Reading, Architect and Competition Director (Professional Chair)
  • Professor Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies and Director, LSE Cities and the Urban Age Programme
  • Michael Craig-Martin, Artist
  • Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica
  • Dame Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Galleries 1991-2016
  • Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery
  • Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, City Hall
  • James Turrell, Artist

The Jury praised all the teams for their creative responses and particularly acknowledged the work of the team led by AL_A, who were awarded an honourable mention.

The other four teams were led by Adjaye Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Les Éclairagistes Associés, and Sam Jacob Studio with Simon Heijdens.

The winning team will now start to develop their design concept in collaboration with stakeholders and partners along the river, and in consultation with the public.