Local News

Official plan to illuminate Bay Bridge revealed

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Many consider the Bay Bridge an architectural gem but it will actually become a work of art soon as a light sculpture is unveiled next year.

In its naked state, the Bay Bridge is functional and architecturally interesting, but it's about to become the world's largest light installation, ever. It will feature 25,000 LED lights in random movement, a sculptural interpretation of the environment. A simulation created by New York artist Leo Villareal is about to become reality. He looks at the bridge as a canvas for his creativity called "Bay Lights."

"My work is all abstract. There are no images and no text. So, I'm working with rules and underlying structures. I'm inspired by all the activity going on here, the motion of traffic, the water, the weather. There's a lot of very fertile territory to explore as an artist working with software," he says. Villareal has done some work in other locations, but the bridge will be his biggest installation ever, 1.8 miles long, 500 feet high, facing north.

The installation will be done at night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. so it won't interfere with traffic. Ben Davis who owns a communications company came up with the idea two years ago today. "I hope this becomes an inspiration for others to understand what the power of the possible is both outside of organization and inside of organizations, which are really just people at the end of the day. Government is us, you know," he says.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's former mayor, sees it as an inspirational beacon as well. "When you light it up, you light up people's imaginations. That quality of imagination should remind them that you can't take things like this for granted and that we have a special place and we can make it that much more special," he says. It will cost $8 million to install and keep going. They've raised $5.5 million and are looking for more donations.

"I'm not creating a light show," Villareal says. "This is a piece of fine art. So, I'm approaching it as an artist. It's almost like painting." The installation will start in October and the lights will be turned on in March. It's scheduled to be open for two years.

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bay bridge, local news, don sanchez
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