Hero image

Illuminated River

Description of Works

FM Conway was awarded the contract for the first phase of the Illuminated River project, which then saw the business install lighting on four bridges including London, Southwark, Cannon Street Railway and Millennium Bridges.

Designed by artist Leo Villareal with architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, the Illuminated River scheme aims to celebrate the river’s historic bridges through the installation of a lighting artwork on up to 15 bridges, from Albert Bridge in West London to Tower Bridge in the East. The completed scheme will span 4.5 nautical miles of the River Thames, making it the world’s longest public art commission.

Services used on this project Lighting Structures
Delivering Innovation

This project showcases the company’s considerable track record, drawing on its experience working with the Greater London Authority to deliver a colour-changing LED lighting system on seven London bridges for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Now FM Conway has turned their hand to Illuminated River, a project that involved sequenced LED lights along four bridges in London simultaneously and required a large number of individual materials for completion.

The team used around 2000m of cable tray on London Bridge and 10,000 rawl-bolt fixings to hold the cable in place. Due to the required amount, the works also created a temporary national shortage in stainless steel cable tray, as everything in the country within a reasonable distance was used.

Neil Mendoza, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Illuminated River Foundation, commented:

“The Illuminated River will be an art commission on an unprecedented scale – using light to boost connectivity, economic activity and public enjoyment of the city at night, whilst improving conditions for the natural environment in and alongside the river.”

The team also worked closely with a construction abseiling specialist, CAN, to access more restricted areas. Cannon Street Railway Bridge proved one of the most challenging structures to work on, bringing additional rail safety considerations as well as requiring the installation of a new power supply. CAN and FM Conway trained electricians to use abseiling equipment in order to fit a new three-phase supply at Cannon Street, as well as connect up the LED lights to the power supplies on the other structures.

/files/library/images/Case studies/Lighting/DSC_0060.jpg

The project brings together our expertise in lighting and structures to help deliver a unique piece of artwork for the capital. The bridges across the River Thames are integral to how Londoners and tourists alike identify with, and travel through, the city.

Ed Barford - Head of Structures at FM Conway
The Challenge and Solutions

The team had to navigate the challenges of waterside working in the heart of London as well as the needs and nuances of each structure, a considerable undertaking in terms of logistics, planning and resources.

To counteract the busy London bridges, most of the work was carried out at night to minimise disruption, plus limited space on the bridges meant that, each night, all working materials were moved back to the depot in Mandela Way, Bermondsey.

The Thames was also a challenge, but provided opportunities for the team, who used the river to transport materials and equipment to the bridges, lifting them up from the boat decks using winches.

Furthermore, meticulous planning was key to the scheme’s success. We had to build strong relationships with the Port of London Authority (PLA), Network Rail, the Thames Tideway Tunnel scheme and the many businesses and institutions who rely on these river crossings.

The team also invented a new containment system to access the underside of Cannon Street Railway bridge, whilst also ensuring they kept to a high standard of health and safety practices.

Adam Barnes, Senior Contract Manager at FM Conways, explains:

“Meeting the highest health and safety standards was paramount, not only for our team, but for river traffic too. Every piece of equipment and material was triple-clipped to its operator, the structure and a safety line. We also had safety boats in place below the structures and devised special containment systems in line with PLA bylaws – including hanging a bale of hay from Millennium Bridge so that boats were aware of headroom restrictions.”


FM Conway has drawn together expertise from across the business, capitalising on the company’s experience of delivering major infrastructure projects in London.

Ed Barford, Head of Structures at FM Conway, said:

“The project brings together our expertise in lighting and structures to help deliver a unique piece of artwork for the capital. The bridges across the River Thames are integral to how Londoners and tourists alike identify with, and travel through, the city.”

Adam added: “It pushed us in unexpected ways, taking the best of what we can do in construction and engineering to deliver an inspiring piece of art for London.”