The Bay Lights

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A test of The Bay Lights on 24 January 2013
The opening of the Bay Lights on March 6, 2013
A time lapse of Market Street, with the Bay Lights in the background

The Bay Lights is a site-specific monumental light sculpture and art installation on the western span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, designed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its opening. The installation by light artist Leo Villareal includes 25,000 individual white LEDs along 1.8 miles (2.9 km) of the cables on the north side of the suspension span of the bridge between Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco. The installation is controlled via a computer and displays changing patterns that are not meant to repeat. The opening ceremony was held on March 5, 2013.[1] Initially intended as a temporary installation to end on March 5, 2015, the project is now seeking donations and funding to make the display a permanent feature.

Origin of the project[edit]

The Bay Lights was conceived by Ben Davis of Words Pictures Ideas, a public relations company that has a contract with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for publicizing the construction of the new span of the Bay Bridge between Yerba Buena Island and Oakland.[2] Davis characterized the Bay Bridge as being overshadowed by the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a popular tourist destination for visitors to San Francisco, and he hoped this art project would give it more recognition.[3]


The 25,000 white LEDs were attached by construction workers along the vertical steel support cables that connect the deck of the bridge to the suspension cables at the top. Caltrans workers intermittently closed a lane of traffic on the bridge late at night so electricians could install the individual LEDs to the cables.[4][5] The lights are programmed to create a series of abstract patterns that ascend and descend the cables and appear to cross the bridge.[6] Villareal said the patterns will be inspired by weather patterns, tides, and the volume of traffic on the bridge at any given time.[7] The installation will operate from dusk until 2 am daily.[2]

The sculpture is visible from the north side of the bridge and will be most easily seen from the San Francisco waterfront. The lights are positioned to be invisible to bridge motorists, to prevent driver distractions.[8] The lights need 100,000 feet (30,000 m) of special cabling to power the installation, as well as for networking and communications with the control computer. The lights are spaced every 12 inches (30 cm) and are attached to the bridge with 60,000 zip ties.[4] Each LED bulb can be adjusted for 255 different levels of brightness and the entire installation is controlled remotely by a computer program operated by Villareal.[2] The LED lights will complement the permanent string of lights that has been attached to the suspension cables since the 50th anniversary of the bridge in 1986.[2]

CREDITS to those who worked on this project: THE BAY LIGHTS

Ben Davis – Catalyst Leo Villareal – Artist Amy Critchett – Executive Producer Dorka Keehn – Development Consultant Annie Wright – Development Consultant Jennifer Holmes – Production Manager Emi Takahara – Production Coordinator Megan Murray – Production Coordinator Kathi Wheater – Copy Goddess Jeremy Ambers – Videographer Lucas Saugen – Photographer Christine Kristen aka Lady Bee – Cultural Outreach


Amy Critchett – Executive Director Ben Davis – Chairman Dennis Bartels – Board Timothy Childs – Board Christina Harbridge – Board Blair Winn – Board Elana Yonah – Board


Jason Cipriani – Lead Programmer Devyn Osborne – 3D Modeling Walter Smith – Architect Special thanks to Yvonne Force-Villareal of Artist Production Fund.


Ben Davis – Founder Steve Barretto – WPI, Group Creative Director Jay Demetillo – WPI, Designer Dave DeSantis – CFO Allati El Henson – WPI, Designer Brian Hildebrand – ISH, Designer Emily Hunter – WPI, Design Manager Jordona Jackson – MPS, PR Mike Jeter – ISH, Art Director Alex Kerr – WPI, Developer Julia Lucia – MPS, Systems Chaunette Lumpkins – WPI, Studio Director Dan McNichol – MP Studios, Content Bart Ney – MPS, Executive Director Adam Peterson – ISH, Motion Ninja Ben Rocha – WPI, Designer Paul Segal – WPI, Sr. Designer Brian VanderZanden – WPI, Lead Developer Effie Millionis Verducci – MPS, Comm. Manager


Joel Slayton – Executive Director Jamie Austin – Curator & Director of Programs Michela Pilo – Office Manager Marcia Maltby – Accountant


Eddie Elliott – Data Visualization Wizard Mike Dalrymple – Database King Lara Thiess – Testing Goddess


Bleyco Inc. Parsons Brinckerhoff Philips Color Kinetics Transdyn Inc World Headquarters Zoon Engineering


Saeed Shahmirzai – Construction Manager/Zoon Shawn Murphy – Project Lead/ Bleyco Brian Macrea – Chief Inspector/Zoon Brandon Peterson – Sr. Networking Engineer/Transdyn


Perry Cortessis – Superintendent Dave Perkins – Safety Mike Durflinger; Matt Montgomery; Jay Macayo – Electricians John Tucker; Benito Ortiz; Carlos Garcia; Sam Benton – Laborer / Rigging


John Stevens – Lead Data Tech


Ray Cooper – Chief Network Engineer Brandon Peterson – Lead Network Engineer


David Collier Rob Timmerman


Lead Traffic Control – Jim Duvall; John Spera


Timothy Childs – The Commadore Gian pablo Villamil – Bridge Clip Design Consultant


Morrison Foerster


Elana Yonah -Executive Producer Kerrilyn Garma -Executive Producer/Director Danny Skarka -Technical Director Nelson Ferreira -Broadcast Specialist Jeremy Ambers –Editor Kevin Doyle – Music for Documentary Segments Ryan Peters -Engineer in Charge Alfred Tetzner -Audio Charles Griswold -Lighting Director Erin Kane -Production Coordinator John Thompson -Production Assistant Steve Albrecht -Video Technician Jonathan Gutoff -Camera Operator Kevin Mazzier -Camera Operator Jimmy Dunn -Jib Operator Steve Porter -Floor Director Gary Wood -Audio Assist Eric Limcaoco -Audio Assist Peter B. Smith -Best Boy Electric Kjell Ness -3rd Electric Drew Nelson -4th Electric Todd Stoneman –Key Grip Jason Noel –Best Boy Grip Dave Cherry -3rd Grip Lisa Quinn -4th Grip Marco Angelo Abellera -Camera Utility Kenneth Butler III -Camera Utility Jimmy Giliberti -Additional Editing Encoder Services -Fullview Media Production Support -Pinnacle Communications


James Healy DJ Sahn Kim Mike Lee Devin Feiertag C.J. Larson JK Sound inc.


All of those at Caltrans, BATA, Coast Guard, CCSF who believed and contributed to the permitting process


We humbly thank and credit all that is The Bay Lights to all of those who have believed


The project cost $8 million, which was raised through private donations and contributions.[4] Project supporters raised a total of $8.7 million, greatly exceeding the amount needed to complete the project.[5] 50 million people are estimated to see The Bay Lights by 2015,[4] and the project could bring up to $100 million in tourism revenue to the Bay Area.[7] ZERO1, a non-profit dedicated to bringing art and technology together, signed on as the official fiscal sponsor of the project.[9]

The Bay Lights is estimated to use approximately $30 per day in electricity,[10] and have a total operating cost of $11,000, which has been donated by a private solar investment company in the form of solar credits.[11]

In July of 2014, Illuminate the Arts announced it was partnering with to sponsor a $1.2 million crowdfunding campaign to keep the Bay Lights lit until 2026.[12]


Both Davis and Villareal suggest The Bay Lights was influenced by their experiences at the annual Burning Man art and music festival in northwestern Nevada. Villareal first attended Burning Man in 1994 and eventually joined the board of directors of the Burning Man organization. His prototype light sculpture was 16 blinking lights in a grid that was meant to be a beacon when returning to his camp at night.[4] From there, Villareal has programmed more complex light matrices and exhibitions, including his largest, "Multiverse," a 41,000 LED installation on permanent display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.[2]

Reception and supporters[edit]

Since its inauguration, The Bay Lights has received widespread public support and positive reaction, as well as political support from state and local politicians, including Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.[4][7]

Hemispheres named The Bay Lights the top attraction in its 2013 "Out with the Old, In with the New" Top-25 feature.[13]

On March 8, 2014, the documentary Impossible Light world premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. The film follows the people who wished to produce The Bay Lights as they search for funding and obtain permits. The Austin Chronicle felt that the documentary was a nearly seamless extraction of the evolutionary relationship between art and benefaction.[14] The film will also be screening as part of the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival in April 2014.[15][16]



External links[edit]