Working with New York artist Leo Villareal and renowned London architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, we are enlivening 15 bridges on the Thames with dynamic lighting. Covering 2.5 miles in length, it will be the longest public art commission in the world.
As well as technically realising Villareal’s artistic vision for the bridges, Atelier Ten are developing a lighting solution that both minimises energy usage and spill light. The river is home to over 100 species of fish. Current spill light into the river is quite high and one of our key aims is to ensure careful control of the bridge lighting to avoid any disturbance to this diverse and rich ecosystem.
We carried out an innovative and extensive luminance survey of the existing bridges and their surroundings. Our luminance surveys covered the entire length of the river between Albert Bridge and Tower Bridge. For such an extensive study we had to develop an inventive solution. We used specialist analysis software and a calibrated SLR camera to provide calibrated luminance plots from hundreds of photographs which we took during night time surveys along the river banks. We pieced together the calibrated photographs to provide a complete record of the brightness distribution along both banks of the Thames, the first luminance survey on this scale and of this context.
We are using the results of the survey to develop recommendations for target light levels for each bridge to ensure the bridges are each lit to an appropriate level tailored to their surroundings and neighbouring iconic landmarks. In turn, this target light level informs the selection of lighting equipment and ensure minimum energy usage and spill of light. We are replacing the existing light fittings with much more energy-efficient solutions. On bridges which are currently lit, our selected fittings and the artist’s software which controls the light patterns will significantly reduce the energy consumption.
Illuminance, or light spill onto the water, is a key concern for the existing wildlife. Nothing was available on the market to curb this, so we designed two custom elements for the light fittings. One is a blade that can be angled to shield light from falling onto the water, and the other improves pedestrian comfort along the banks by reducing glare.
One of the first milestones on this project was to secure planning – no mean feat, as the team submitted 30 planning applications and 18 applications for listed building consent. We produced technical lighting reports for each application, demonstrating the measures undertaken to ensure the proposed lighting will be carefully controlled and sensitive to its environment.