25,000 LEDs For The Bay Bridge’s 75th Year

Courtesy of Leo Villareal

It’s not every artist’s dream to have a 500-foot canvas that’s also an international icon, but that’s what Leo Villareal and his lighting team couldn’t be more thrilled about. This month, crews will begin constructing a massive light-art installation on San Francisco’s famous Bay Bridge.

First conceived 2 years ago by Ben Davis of Words Pictures Ideas (a communications firm that does work for Caltrans), “The Bay Lights” will cover 1.8 miles of the bridge’s northern face with 25,000 programmable LEDs suspended on cables. The team plans to have it finished by March, when they’ll debut it with a grand lighting celebration just in time for the bridge’s 75th anniversary.

Leo Villareal, the artist in charge, plans to use intricate sequences and algorithms to display light patterns based on movements around the bridge. He’s best known for his piece “Multiverse,” made of 41,000 LEDs in the tunnel that connects the two wings in Washington’s National Gallery of Art. Villareal hopes to bring the same elegant orchestration to The Bay Lights. You can see the concept in this video:

The lights, all programmed from Villareal’s laptop, will run from dusk until 2 a.m. nightly and be visible in and around San Francisco. However, drivers on the bridge itself won’t see them. The installation will be active for two years, and the city expects to earn over $100 million in profits from visitors who come hoping for a glimpse.

Getting the project approved by all the necessary people was quite an involved process, but the team has finally acquired all the necessary permits from the California Highway Patrol and the Coast Guard to Caltrans. Now, having raised $5.5 million in private funding out of a needed $8 million, the team is still working to meet its goals for the March commencement.

You can learn more about the plans for this tremendous light sculpture at TheBayLights.org.

Annie Josey

Annie was the E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Lighting from June 2012 to October 2013. She has a background in English literature, and loves using language to help illuminate the world. So covering lighting news and tips naturally fit her interests. In her personal time she enjoys painting, biking, and reading.