The art installation by Leo Villareal on the Bay Bridge is absolutely stunning. The thousands of shimmering lights decorating the bridge elevate the Golden Gate’s awkward cousin to the big leagues while adding to the already picturesque skyline across San Francisco Bay. ABCey explores the innovative technology behind Villareal’s masterpiece.
The backstory: Villareal is an accomplished artist whose work spans across America, including the Burningman camp Disorient. Ben Davis, founder of World Pictures Ideas, discovered Villareal’s work at the 2010 Zero1 Biennial in Silicon Valley. As chairman of Illuminate the Arts, Davis recruited the artist to begin the enormous project to adorn the Bay Bridge in light in honor of its 75th birthday.
Villareal used around 25,000 individuall programmed white LED lights to complete his project. Philips Color Kinetics custom made the lights and a complex algorithm to create an ever-changing pattern across the western side of the bridge. The lights are mounted in single strands along the bridge’s cables and use around 150 kilowatt hours during its nightly 7-hour shift. The displays costs around $11,000 per year, or about $4.25 per hour!
The bridge is now not only a bridge, but a contemporary work of art deemed the largest LED sculpture in the world. 50 million people are expected to see the bridge during the art work’s two year lifespan. The Bay Lights are a symbol of the bay area’s world-renoun leadership in the arts, transportation and progress, and, of course, technology.