Artist Yinka Ilori To Transform a London Tunnel Into ‘Happy Street’

Yinka Ilori’s ‘Happy Street’
Yinka Ilori’s ‘Happy Street’ | © Yinka Ilori
Photo of Charlotte Luxford
Architecture & Design Editor1 October 2018

Designer-maker Yinka Ilori has won the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) competition to transform a gloomy underpass in Wandsworth into a vibrant space in his signature technicolour style.

Yinka Ilori is fast becoming one of the most sought-after creatives in London, with his art often drawing on Nigerian parables and African fabrics to create distinctive works that are a riot of pattern and colour.

This latest commission to transform the “gloomy underpass” of Thessaly Road Railway Bridge is part of a larger redevelopment in the Battersea Nine Elms area. Ilori’s winning design, ‘Happy Street’, is a multi-sensory and interactive installation that will come to life as people pass through the tunnel, flooding it with light, colour and scent.

The tunnel will be a riot of colour, reflective of Ilori's bold style | © Yinka Ilori

The walls will be clad in vibrant powder-coated panels, inspired by sunsets over the River Thames nearby. This low-cost reflective surface will come into its own at night as the tunnel is illuminated with kaleidoscopic colours that add a sense of cheerfulness and safety to the space.

“I am very grateful to the LFA team and the local community around Thessaly Road for believing in ‘Happy Street’ and am looking forward to bringing the rainbow to the underpass,” said Ilori in a statement on the project. “This is a very special project with a very special community and I feel honoured to have been given this opportunity.”

Yinka Ilori with local school children | © Yinka Ilori

A transformation of Thessaly Road Railway Bridge has been long overdue, with Ilori’s design proving to be the most popular in a local community vote. The LFA competition saw 108 architects, designers, artists and students submit entries, which was whittled down to just five shortlisted designs before Ilori’s proposal was selected. The £200,000 ($261,000) ‘Happy Street’ project will be unveiled during the London Festival of Architecture in 2019.

“As well as bringing innovative art and colour to the street that will be enjoyed by all, I know that the local school children will be very happy with Yinka’s bright design as they find the underpass dark and scary in its current state,” said Steffi Sutters from Wandsworth Council.

Yinka Ilori’s ‘Happy Street’ | © Yinka Ilori

Ilori often works with communities, with past projects including Restoration Station, a furniture upcycling workshop for people in addiction recovery, and a partnership with Milton Keynes Arts Centre on a 12-month programme in which he collaborated with 15 children from local primary schools.

Ilori also won a competition in July to design the Dulwich Pavilion for 2019 – a temporary events space inspired by the colourful Dutch wax prints found in Lagos’s markets.

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