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San Francisco Bay Bridge to become world's largest light sculpture


January 25, 2013

The Bay Lights installation will begin to shine from March 5

The Bay Lights installation will begin to shine from March 5

Image Gallery (2 images)

Since its creation 75 years ago, the San Francisco Bay Bridge has remained a familiar feature of the city’s skyline. However, from early March, the west span of the bridge is set to be transformed into the world's largest animated light sculpture, courtesy of artist Leo Villareal and his project The Bay Lights.

The 1.8 mile (2.8 km) wide and 500 feet (152 meter) high Bay Lights installation will run for two years and feature some 25,000 white LEDs (light-emitting diodes), each of which can be programmed to display complex patterns. The lights will be viewable from San Francisco, and areas to the North, and are so energy-efficient that they are said to cost just US$30 per day in electricity to power.

Work began on the project back in September 2012 and required specially-trained riggers, who worked at vertigo-inducing heights in order to attach LED light wires to the 300 cables on the bridge. The artist created his own proprietary software to wield complete control over each LED, providing an overall effect which promises to be stunning.

“It’s my fantasy project,” enthused Villareal, whose work has previously appeared in the permanent collections of museums and in public spaces in New York, Washington D.C., and Istanbul, Turkey. “There have been a lot of bridge lightings, but nothing like this. I’ll incorporate 255 levels of brightness and sequence the lights so that the piece becomes a mirror to its surroundings.”

The Bay Lights will begin to shine from March 5 between dusk and midnight, impacting over 50 million people in the Bay Area, and adding an estimated $97 million to the local economy.

The video below features an artist’s rendering of how the lights will look.

Source: The Bay Lights via Inhabitat

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Some photos from the test lighting on Jan 24: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewalmonroth/sets/72157632603118159/with/8413765164/

Matthew Roth

Tampa has had our bridges and buildings lit for a dozen years now. "Lights On! TAMPA!" is a biannual artistic lighting display and contest that's been on-going since 2001.

Ross Nicholson

This is exactly what the Bay Area needs - more light pollution...


This video had disappointing resolution and colors

Arthur Dent

"adding an estimated $97 million to the local economy"

Who makes these estimates and how? Why do you have to repeat these claims?

Mr. T

If the resolution was better, it would be useful if it were to display average traffic speed during commute hours. or point to the location of a specific accident.


A beautiful ode to surrealism... good job!

Michael Sustrick

What a shame they didn't use RGB LEDs instead. That would have looked a lot more interesting!They could be a permanent feature, and could even be solar powered.

David Clarke
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