Art Backers Want to Light Up The Bay Bridge

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Compared to the soon-to-be-completed Eastern span, the Bay Bridge's Western length is looking a bit plain. But artist Leo Villareal wants to brighten it up with 25,000 LED's—he just needs $7 million first.

The Bay Lights project aims to celebrate the bridge's 75th anniversary—which begins today, actually—with an iconic light sculpture. LED's would be spaced along the vertical suspension cables in one-foot intervals. Each would be individually controllable, allowing officials to animate complex designs that would run back and forth along the span during its two year installation. The lights would be installed on the outside of the bridge and viewable from the North-East end of the city but not from drivers on the bridge itself.


"I'm very interested in scale, of what happens in shrinking this whole space down by creating this focal point." Villareal said in an interview. The artist has previous experience with these sorts of large-scale installations, having lit up the Eiffel Tower for its recent centennial as well as creating a permanent exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, and the Tampa Museum building facade. This would be the largest project to date—roughly seven times as grand as the Eiffel Tower project.

The operating costs of the project are surprisingly minimal, just $11,000 for electricity costs—and that amount has already been donated by Clean Path in the form of solar credits. The meat of the $7 million project comes with the installation itself, which would necessitate six months of night work by crews suspended from the bridge's upper reaches as well as more lane closures (*shudder*). A coalition of local art organizations have taken up the cause and hope to raise the necessary funds by March. If successful, they'll begin putting up lights by October where they'll remain until the new Eastern span opens in 2013.


The old Eastern span will not be lit—presumably to protect against someone hacking the light controls to read "Welcome to Oakland bitch!" [The Bay Lights via Make ]