World’s Largest Light Sculpture to be installed on San Francisco Bay Bridge for 75th Anniversary


Internationally renowned artist Leo Villareal is installing the world’s largest light sculpture in honor of the 75th anniversary of the bridge. People in San Francisco will start to see a flicker of lights along the suspension cables of the Bay Bridge next month, and by March the entire western span will be illuminated with tens of thousands of lights.

“The piece will be a mirror of the activity around it,” Villareal said. “I am working with technology in a certain way and adding another layer to the bridge.”

Rendering of Bay Lights art installation on San Francisco Bay Bridge

Artist’s rendering Bay Lights Installation.

This abstract art installation, called The Bay Lights, will be 1.8 miles long and rise 500-feet above the waters of the bay. Twenty-five thousand individually programmable, energy-efficient LED lights will be carefully strung along the bridge’s cables. Once fully installed, the lights will dim and brighten mimicking the ocean, fog, and human activity around it. “Exactly two years ago today the idea of The Bay Lights flickered in my head,” said Ben Davis, the project organizer. “It hit me that the bridge could be not just a bridge but a canvas.”

Different spots in the Bay Area will offer up different viewpoints — so that standing on Treasure Island will reveal a very different scene than from Marin, Oakland, or San Francisco’s embarcadero.

The Bay Lights is expected to stay up for two years and draw in millions of tourists. Once installed the lighting is fairly cost efficient, using only $30 per day in electricity, and project organizers estimate that it will add $97 million to the local economy. It has had an incredible amount of public and private support; the $8 million project is being privately funded and is still seeking $2.5 million for completion.

 “California is a state of dreamers, doers, and entrepreneurs,” said California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “For San Francisco this is a remarkable reminder to the world of what makes our state special. Paris, eat your heart out.”

Pre-construction on the project has already begun and installation of the lights will begin in October. The first full lighting of the bridge is set for March 6, 2013. 

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