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.