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World’s largest LED light sculpture to illuminate San Francisco’s Bay Bridge from Tuesday

bay bridge San Francisco’s Bay Bridge is about to be lit up in a grand art-tech extravaganza that’s sure to send more than a few drivers on the bridge veering across a couple of lanes in WTF?!? surprise when the big switch-on takes place Tuesday night.

Over 25,000 LED lights have been painstakingly installed on the Bay Bridge’s five-hundred-feet high and 1.8-mile-wide western span, with the switch-on ceremony scheduled for 9pm this evening.

The Bay Lights installation – the work of internationally renowned artist Leo Villareal – will stay in place for the next two years, bathing the structure in constantly changing patterns of light.

the bay lights
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The project’s webpage explains that “patterns of weather, the water and the traffic of cars, ships and wildlife” will all be used as inspiration for creating Villareal’s software algorithms linked to the installation, resulting in unique, never-repeated light patterns.

“People’s perception of what the piece is will be highly subjective, no two people may see the same thing,” Villareal said. “But there’ll still be this point of connection between many, many people.”

The artist behind the world’s largest ever light sculpture has been described by the project organizers as a “pioneer in the use of LEDs and computer-driven imagery”. Villareal said that after beginning his career as a sculptor, he became interested in technology around 20 years ago before deciding to use light as the main element of his creations.

The light display comes just after the Bay Bridge’s 75th anniversary, with Villareal hoping the record-breaking piece of public art will serve to inspire artists located in the Bay Area. Local businesses should benefit too, with the display’s organizers estimating that interest in the installation – which is expected to be viewed by as many as 50 million people over the next two years – will help to add some $97 million to the local economy.

A live webcast of Tuesday evening’s light-up can be viewed here from 8.30pm, while a nightly stream of the LED display will begin Wednesday. For those who can’t wait till tonight, below is a video giving you an idea of what you can expect to see with Villareal’s ambitious project.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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