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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: The Bay Lights

GPI Design - Thursday, March 07, 2013

The lengthy western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has been transformed into a massive, two-year-long public art project called The Bay Lights. Every night for the next two years, the northern side of the bridge section will display an array of 25,000 LEDs making this the largest light show on the Earth. It's an assortment of seemingly animated patterns, strung vertically on the bridge’s twisted steel cables.

The Bay Lights LED Lighting Control Installation

The LEDs are controlled via the internet and jointly connected to a network using ethernet, copper wire and fiber optic cables. The designer, Leo Villareal, uses his own custom-built software to control the light show each night without the need for human interference. 

The bridge opened on Tuesday, March 5th to public fanfare, much like an unveiling of a giant art canvas.  San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, when speaking a press conference for the project’s launch event, expressed his satisfaction with The Bay Lights and the potential tourism that it can attract. "I actually feel that when we unveil this tonight, the feeling that I'm going to be having is that we just won another World Series, because it's going to be that kind of excitement," he said. "You can imagine anything you want in these lights. Give yourself [over to this] and use your own imagination to work with these 25,000 lights—for me, it's the mustache you'll see in these lights."

Although the project is only slated for a two year lifespan, the designer Villareal hopes to extend the life of The Bay Lights far beyond that. Villareal has worked on similar projects involving LEDs and computer algorithms in the past. He has created installations at the Bleecker Street Station in New York along with other projects in California and Washington. Here's a salute to Villareal's vision which merges technology and art, all while navigating the bureaucratic red tape!

Image credits: My Modern Met, CNet