Does the new Bay Bridge light show really rival the Eiffel Tower? We're not sure, but that's what the creators of the project are claiming. It's true that the new light extravaganza is eight times bigger than the French structure.
Just to be clear, it's not the Golden Gate Bridge we're talking about — bridge that connects San Francisco to Oakland that's shining with new life. With 25,000 twinkling LED lights, the Bay Lights project is the largest light sculpture in the world — 25,000 lights, 1.8 miles long, 500 feet high.
The Bay Lights was conceived by artist Leo Villarealand and was intended as a temporary two-year installation funded by Illuminate the Arts.
The installation had a two year run, 2013 to 2015, transforming the drive from the city to Oakland into a dazzling waterfall of lights.
Once the initial funds were depleted the bridge turned back to black. But San Francisco being San Francisco, a wealthy sponsor breathed life and $2 million dollars into the project. With half the necessary funds raised, the balance was raised to secure the project to run until 2026.
The lights were ceremonially turned on again on January 30, 2016, just in time for the Super Bowl.
Construction workers has raced to install the intricate network of LED lights on the Bay Bridge's 300 cables. Due to traffic, the lights could only be installed during the evening hours.
"The Bay Lights have become a global phenomenon and are now engrained in the cultural identity of California," says founder Ben Davis of Illuminate, the arts organization that helped the project come to light (so to speak). "The radically accessible artwork directly contributes to the quality of life, cultural fabric, and economic vitality of the entire Bay Area."
Far-reaching claims, for sure, but the Bay Lights make a real change to the San Francisco landscape.
Leo Villareal, a popular LED artist, is famous for his other high-profile art installations such as the Buckyball in NYC's Madison Square Park, and the New York Bleecker Street subway station.
The light show changes continually taking inspiration from the waves and the ebb and flow of traffic between the East Bay over to the City. The algorithm is programmed to never repeat itself. .
Until all 25,000 lights are claimed, you can dedicate a light to someone you love or to make a connection to the city and its arts. Every $100 dedication is a donation to support Illuminate in creating new and inspiring works of public art.
Little brother to the more famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge opened on November 12, 1936. But the dream to build a bridge that would connect Oakland to San Francisco began in 1872 by self-proclaimed Emperor Norton, a highly eccentric citizen of San Francisco.
In 1989, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Bay Area, it caused the upper deck of the Bay Bridge to collapse into the lower deck. Surprisingly, there was only one death.
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