Waterloo Bridge will be illuminated in 2021 — in a design inspired by the Impressionist and English Romantic painters who loved the Thames.
As part of the second stage of Illuminated River — a project to light up to 14 river crossings in central London — artist Leo Villareal has said he will use the likes of Claude Monet and J.M.W. Turner as his muse — artists who painted London’s grand river and its bridges.
Villareal says his design will incorporate “a line of colour that shifts and blends across the bridge, adjusting to the constantly changing riverscape…” and that ‘soft washes’ of light, will highlight the bridge’s undercrofts.
From the mock-up images, it certainly looks like the rippling waters beneath the bridge play into the idea of a living painting.
Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and built largely by women during the second world war, Waterloo Bridge is considered a masterpiece, but it’s also technically unfinished.
Scott had always intended for the bridge to be embellished with artworks; in 1947, five plinth designs were submitted by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein, Frank Dobson and Eric Kennington, as part of a competition. None were ever realised.
10 years later, Hepworth submitted four designs for two pairs of plinths on either side of the river. The Sea and The Valleys would have stood on the south side of the bridge, while the The Hills was intended for the front of Lancaster House, and The River, at the front of Somerset House. These designs also never came to fruition, although they are held in the Tate’s collection.
Finally then, Waterloo Bridge will become a riverine art gallery, albeit in a very different way to what was originally intended.
Four bridges: London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millenium have already undergone the Illuminated River treatment. Waterloo Bridge’s after-dark makeover will be revealed in spring 2021, alongside the Blackfriars, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth bridges.