British-Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori specialises in storytelling by fusing his heritage to tell new stories in contemporary design. His practice began in 2011 by upcycling vintage furniture by taking inspiration from traditional Nigerian parables and West African fabrics that surrounded him as a child.
Yinka’s work is characterised as humorous, provocative and fun, with each furniture telling a story and bringing Nigerian verbal traditions into playful conversation with contemporary design.
In 2020 Yinka Ilori Studio won a competition to overhaul a “gloomy underpass” in South London. The team proposed using vibrant colours and patterns for the project. The Thessaly Road Railway Bridge contest was organised as part of the London Festival of Architecture.
The Happy Street design transforms the dark space beneath the old railway bridge in Wandsworth into a welcoming space for pedestrians and cyclists. This interactive installation fills the entire underpass with colour. The underpass walls and bridge have been clad in 56 patterned vitreous enamel panels, forming a low-cost, durable and cheerful surface. Sixteen colours have been chosen for happiness and well-being, inspired by colour theory.
I just hope this bridge continues to bring happiness to everyone who walks under Happy Street
At night, the underpass is well lit, further enhancing the structure as a new local landmark and giving passers-by a better sense of safety.
Yinka and his team worked closely with the local residents and the nearby St. George’s Primary School and Wandsworth Council during the project’s development.
“I am really honoured and blessed to have my first public realm project installed in Nine Elms, Battersea! The most important part of the project was talking to the community, especially the young children, and seeing the smiles on their faces when they walk under the bridge has been magical. I just hope this bridge continues to bring happiness to everyone who walks under Happy Street and inspires the next generation of young artists,” Yinka said as he described the project.
Photographer: Luke O'Donovan