The bridges along the River Thames in London are to be lit up as a major piece of public art. Six proposals have been shortlisted as part of the Illuminated River competition, which is aimed not only at delivering visually outstanding designs, but ones that make use of new technologies.

The project was launched in June and has funding of £10 million (US$12.4 million) pledged to it so far. It will see 17 bridges illuminated from Chelsea to London's financial district celebrating the river and making it more a part of London's night-time economy.

"Since the founding of London, the mighty Thames has been the city's main artery, linking north and south, east and west, encouraging business, activity and recreation," explains chair of the Illuminated River Foundation, Hannah Rothschild. "But at night, the river becomes a ribbon of darkness, a place that few enjoy and at odds with the ambition to make London a 24-hour city. This project will bring light, energy, beauty and recreation to the river and at the flick of a switch, transform the city at night."

Chris Ofili's "Invisible Ripples" installation at London Bridge as part of Adjaye Associates’ Blurring Boundaries proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Adjaye Associates)

The first of the six shortlisted proposals, "Blurring Boundaries," would see each of the bridges individually re-imagined with installations of their own. The aim of these would be to celebrate the bridges as being central to the cohesion of London in both literal and social senses. They would be accompanied by pavilions, such as lookout towers, loggias and a new auditorium.

Westminster Bridge as part of AL_A's "The Eternal Story of the River Thames" proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and AL_A)

"The Eternal Story of the River Thames" is aimed at refocusing attention on the river as a natural, rather than man-made, part of London. It would see the river wall illuminated, the undersides of the bridges lit up at low-tide and lighting installed on the bridges to show their profiles at high tide.

Vertical beams light as part of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's "Synchronizing the City: Its Natural and Urban Rhythms" proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

"Synchronizing the City: Its Natural and Urban Rhythms" would also seek to highlight natural cycles. At dusk, the spans of the bridges would gradually fill with light from their outsides inwards, after which a beam of light would shoot upwards into the sky from the center of each bridge. The timing would be based on the geographical location of each bridge and the rotation of the Earth.

Westminster Bridge as part of Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands' "Current" proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Leo Villareal and Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands)

Leo Villareal's "Current" proposal would see colorful interactive lighting adorn each bridge, as well as commercial lighting installed along the banks of the river. A partnership to deliver additional installations would also be developed.

Westminster Bridge as part of Les Éclairagistes Associés' "A River Ain’t Too Much To Light" proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Les Éclairagistes Associés)

"A River Ain't Too Much To Light" would see the bridges illuminated gradually as daylight fades and lampposts installed in the river marking its path. The lampposts would become less or more visible depending on the height of the tide and would be reproductions of original lampposts from around the world, reflecting the mix of cultures within London.

Chelsea Bridge as part of Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens' "Thames Nocturne" proposal(Credit: Malcolm Reading Consultants and Sam Jacob Studio and Simon Heijdens)

The final shortlisted proposal, "Thames Nocturne," would see a "ribbon of light" connecting Chelsea to Wapping. Light would be shone bidirectionally from bridge to bridge by way of lighting devices installed across the bridge spans. The "weave" of light-beams would react to the behaviour of the river based on real-time measurements, subsequently rising and falling like the water and the tide.

The six proposals were chosen from a total of 105 entries by an independent jury. Another jury, with help from a technical advisory panel, will also choose the overall winner, which is due to be announced on December 8th. The proposals will be on display for three weeks in the Illuminated River Exhibition at London's Royal Festival Hall from this Wednesday.

View gallery - 35 images