The Great Switch-on

     

    July 24, 2019

     

    A loud cheer went up as the first of four London bridges burst into color as part of the Illuminated River project

     

    The excitement onboard the Thames pleasure cruiser was palpable as the clock ticked down to 10.00pm on Wednesday, July 17. This was the scheduled time for the switch-on of four London bridges spanning the River Thames – the first to be lit in the Illuminated River project – an art commission on a truly massive scale.

    illuminated river the great switch-on image 1
    Photo: ©James Newton

     

    The four bridges – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium – were to light up at precisely 10.00pm"

    Earlier, a fleet of iconic red double-decker buses transferred around 350 guests from a reception with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, at the ornate Guildhall, to the Millennium Pier. Once there, they boarded the vessel from City Cruises. Now, as it sat in the Thames, the countdown began.

     

    The four bridges – London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium – each allotted a button, were to be pushed at precisely 10.00pm.

    The fingers on buttons belonged to:

     

    • Neil Mendoza, Chairman of the trust overseeing the project and Chairman of the Landmark Trust
    • Hannah Rothschild, who originated the idea of illuminating the bridges and is a trustee and donor
    • Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation 
    • Leo Villareal, the world-famous lighting artist

    Light meets architecture

     

    4 – 3 – 2 – 1!  A massive cheer went up as the bridges burst into color with a beauty and subtlety befitting the majesty of their architecture.
     

    “To ensure everything went smoothly we had a team of our and Leo’s people on hand at each bridge. It all went flawlessly,” said Iain Byrne, Project Manager, Illuminated River project, Signify.
     

    Artist Leo Villareal was delighted. “With Illuminated River, the largest artwork I’ve ever conceived, I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of Monet, Turner and Whistler and reveal the truly unique, inspiring and poetic character of the Thames,” he said.

    illuminated river the great switch-on image 2

     

    With literally the lightest touch the art alters our view of our city and unites the river as never before"

    Summing up the interplay of light with the bridges’ architecture, Alex Lifschutz, Founding Principal of architecture practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, commented: “The art subtly reveals their beauty and in some cases their muscularity, transforming even the humblest railway bridges into iconic forms. Of particular interest to me is that transformative quality – with literally the lightest touch the art alters our view of our city and unites the river as never before.”

    London Calling: free public artwork to be viewed a billion times

     

    “Physical work on the first four bridges began in January this year,” explained Joao Pola, Signify’s UK and Ireland CEO, “the bridges use our Color Kinetics lighting monitored by Interact Landmark. Our software can also be used to control the lighting, for example to commemorate special occasions.”

     

    Consultants Atelier 10 ensured the lighting minimizes direct light spill onto the river. And as it is LED, it reduces energy consumption. Previously, the lighting ran all night, from dusk to dawn. Now that it’s connected, it’s switched off at 2.00am to offer extra energy savings.

    Illuminating London's bridges
    illuminated river the great switch-on image 3
    illuminated river the great switch-on image 4
    Signify selfie time at London Bridge: Right to left: Joao Pola, CEO UK and Ireland, Alastair Aitken, Commercial Manager and Daniel Bausor, Marketing
    It’s estimated the artwork on the first four bridges will be seen more than 60 million times each year by Londoners and visitors alike. And that number, like the project itself, will continue to grow.

     

    At 2.5 miles in length, along 4.5 nautical miles of the River Thames, Illuminated River will be the longest public art commission in the world"

    illuminated river the great switch-on image 5
    Lighting these four bridges is just phase one in the Illuminated River project. Once complete, 15 illuminated bridges will span the Thames, stretching from Albert Bridge in the west to Tower Bridge in the east.

    At 2.5 miles in length, along 4.5 nautical miles of the River Thames, the project will be the longest public art commission in the world. During its 10-year lifespan it will be viewed over a billion times.
    illuminated river the great switch-on image 6

    Of course, the project will attract more people to enjoy the river and riverside. As with bridges and monuments we’ve lit around the world, this will have an enduring and positive impact on the local economy.

     

    That’s the meaning of light.

    About the author:

    Neil Pattie


    Neil Pattie


    Corporate Communications

    For further information, please contact:

    Signify Global Integrated Communications
    Neil Pattie
    Tel: + 31 6 15 08 48 17
    Email: neil.pattie@signify.com

    About Signify

     

    Signify (Euronext: LIGHT) is the world leader in lighting for professionals and consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Our Philips products, Interact connected lighting systems and data-enabled services, deliver business value and transform life in homes, buildings and public spaces. With 2018 sales of EUR 6.4 billion, we have approximately 29,000 employees and are present in over 70 countries. We unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world. We have been named Industry Leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for two years in a row. News from Signify is located at the NewsroomTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram. Information for investors can be found on the Investor Relations page.

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