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Lighting London Bridges

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Photo: Leo Villareal, CGI

The New York artist who lit up the San Francisco Bay Bridge, has been selected to do a £20m project illuminating London’s 17 bridges. He is Leo Villareal.

He, and  British architects and urban planners Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, won from a shortlist of six for what will be one of the UK’s biggest ever public art commissions.

It is a permanent scheme and will light up 17 bridges over six nautical miles from Tower Bridge in the east to Albert BridgeAlbert Bridge in the west.

Villareal and his collaborators are suggesting a "sensitive" “rhythm of light” across each bridge, created using  a computer code which monitors and responds to the ebbs and flows of the river and pedestrians. In a short film on the winning project, London’s bridges are lit up with changing colours that include whites, oranges and purples.

The film-maker, novelist and chair of the National Gallery, Hannah Rothschild, whose idea the project is, claimed Villareal had proven his skill to paint with light and that Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands had direct experience building bridges.

The Royal Victoria Dock Bridge. Photograph: © Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands/Chris Gascoigne

“Their scheme is beautiful, ambitious and realisable but always considerate to the environment, lighting levels and energy conservation,” she said.

“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.”

Villareal is best known for his fabulous lighting project on San Francisco’s “other” bridge. It ran for two years and brought back this year permanently as a part of the city due to its popularity.

Leo Villareal is “delighted and humbled” that the jury chose his team’s “artistically driven” vision for the River Thames. “The whole team shares a belief in the power of large-scale public culture and art to enrich our cities,” he said.

“Our aim is for a lighting master plan 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.”

Best of all, it will cost the British taxpayer nothing.

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