How to light bridges

November 2018

5 principles for designing better bridge lighting

More designers than ever before are using light as an art form: painting with light to create inspirational attractions and instil pride in our civic landmarks.

In 2016 the Mayor of London launched a competition to redesign the lighting schemes of 17 of the city’s most celebrated bridges. The winning designer, Leo Villareal said: “he wouldn’t have been able to do this without LED”. Which goes to show what a creative tool LED has become.

Bridge use, road safety and regulations, reflections off water, plus the impact on local residents and wildlife are all key considerations for nailing the best lighting design.

We’ve listed our top 5 lighting design principles, with examples. 

1. Stay true to heritage 

For projects where the look and ambience of historic lighting is desired, but outdated technology is proving inefficient and/or ineffective, it’s sometimes the best call to work with what you’ve got. Refurbishing existing luminaires or instructing a manufacturer to produce replica lanterns and upgrading to the latest tech. Which is exactly what we did for our client the City of London at the iconic Tower Bridge. Read more here >

2. Control

Some may use light, reflected on the water’s surface, to enhance. Creating beautiful and understated effects with attractive symmetry. But sometimes there are residents needs to consider.  Limit light spillage and sky-glow through controlled optical distribution or for localised light, where needed (and not through windows or spilling into wildlife habitats), consider handrail lighting, as illustrated in our Beard Lane project >

3.  Light to stand-out but not to overpower

This may sound obvious but use the right amount of light. Some schemes are designed to throw out more than 20 lux – which is enough to light a motorway. Consider use and comfort. For bridge decks; safety should also be a key consideration - lighting should aid movement for both pedestrians and vehicles, with uniform, glare free light. This was a key objective for the Scottish Borders Council, in their River Ettrick footbridge project.  The view – in pictures >

4. Create drama and identity

All bridge designs are unique. Create drama and identity through light. And don’t forget the underside of the bridge, which can provide an exciting architectural structure for lighting.

LED offers the flexibility and impact of COLOUR. Heighten the aesthetic impact of your bridge by selecting a contrasting colour.

The underside of Holborn Viaduct was not previously lit, using the original blueprints we replicated Victorian luminaires, which now provide a warm uniform light for pedestrians and traffic at night. Click here for more details >

5. Create a focal point

Light can be used for dramatic and striking effects. Consider subtle highlighting of key architectural features, for example, main supports or suspension wires.

Providing a curve of light, which spans 8 lanes of traffic, our Garda illuminated handrail was used to emphasise the beautiful, sweeping MAAT footbridge, Lisbon take a look

What are some of your favourite illuminated bridges? Take a look at more of our Bridge and footbridge lighting case studies here > 

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