Yinka Ilori gives London streets a Technicolor makeover

Written by Leah Dolan, CNNLondon

Yinka Ilori, a British Nigerian designer known for his exuberant technicolor murals, has transformed 11 pedestrian crossings in central London as part of a new public art project hoping to increase domestic tourism within the UK.

Beginning near Camden’s Percy Street, the crossings extend throughout Tottenham Court Road — a historic shopping destination with stores that date back to the early 19th century. Neon green, fuschia and electric blue road markings stretch across the tarmac in an interwoven geometric pattern that represents the city’s communal spirit, Ilori said.

“It was a work that was inspired by lockdown,” he told CNN. “I found lockdown tough, but I also found it quite celebratory. In an unusual way, I found love for the people in my community. These linear lines show the interlink between people and how we came together.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and artist Yinka Ilori stride across the new piece of public art. Credit: Stephen Chung/PinPep

The new streetscape design at Tottenham Court Road, which will be in place for a year, is part of the Mayor of London’s Let’s Do London campaign to boost the city’s tourism industry. Ilori is set to debut six more crosswalks in the City of London; and from September 20, during the London Design Festival, members of the public are invited to help complete a similar project at the area’s Queen Street pedestrian plaza.

Ilori’s maximalist reimaginings of everyday spaces have made him a notable force in London’s design scene. This summer, the architect took over the courtyard of Somerset House to build a mini fairground complete with musical bumper cars. In 2019, he installed “Playland,” a color-blocked playground for adults at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Ilori's interwoven designs signify the community he discovered in lockdown.

Ilori’s interwoven designs signify the community he discovered in lockdown. Credit: Stephen Chung/PinPep

Unveiling a new public art installation is no easy feat, especially when the piece happens to be in the middle of a bustling London road. But Ilori insists on the significance of a pedestrian crossing: “You pass people, you’re sharing that experience together. You might link eyes with someone or smile, or maybe you brush shoulders.”

The designer hopes these dazzling traffic markers will encourage the city’s residents to explore areas they may previously have overlooked. “There’s always points in London where people meet,” said Ilori. “I think this could be a point for people. Hopefully (the artwork) will become a point of destination.”

Top image: A cyclist rides across Yinka Ilori’s installation on Tottenham Court Road.