San Francisco’s Bay Bridge has long been the ugly step sister to the prettier, more popular Golden Gate Bridge. But thanks to a pioneering artist and a buttload of LED lights, the maligned link between San Francisco and Oakland is about to be the shining star of the Bay Area.
Starting tonight, a light installation known as The Bay Lights will illuminate the western span of the Bay Bridge. This isn’t just any old light show, however. With 25,000 rippling white lights lining each suspension cable along the 1.8 mile span between downtown SF and Yerba Buena Island, The Bay Lights is set to be the largest LED light sculpture in the world.
According to the New York Times, artist Leo Villareal was inspired by the motion surrounding the stoic bridge – “the kinetic activity of boats, water, clouds, traffic.” By drawing the spirit of these ever-changing elements into the bridge itself through waxing and waning light, Villareal has transformed the structure into another moving part of the bustling Bay Area. Let’s just hope the effect doesn’t freak out drivers who are already terrified of being trapped on a bridge during an earthquake.
It’s interesting to note that the Bay Bridge is actually the eldest of San Francisco’s two major watery overpasses, and yet seniority has not served the old gal well throughout the years. The Bay Bridge was opened at the end of 1936 to great fanfare, but merely five months later the Golden Gate came along like an unwanted Irish twin with its more picturesque location and striking bronze pillars, and suddenly no one cared about the older sibling. I now understand how my older sister must have felt when I sprung from the skull of Athena in all my gilded, godly glory.
The 8 million dollar privately funded installation will run for the next two years and is expected to bring in upwards of 97 million smackeroos to the local economy. We assume that’s from people renting boats to see the lights from the water, and we feel sorry for them for not realizing they can see the show from land and for free.
Or, if you’re really a budget traveler, save all your money and just watch this sneak peek of the installation in action: