'It's About Human Connection': Creating San Francisco's Stunning 'Bay Lights'

Artist Leo Villareal discusses what inspired the gorgeous, 1.8 mile-long LED installation.


On March 5, 2013, San Francisco’s Bay Bridge lit up with 25,000 LEDs courtesy of Leo Villareal’s installation The Bay Lights. The huge light sculpture will illuminate the bridge for the next two years as locals get to see a magnificent display on a nightly basis.

Courtesy of The Bay Lights. Photography by Lucas Saugen

Courtesy of The Bay Lights. Photography by Lucas Saugen

In the video above, light sculptor Villareal discusses how this project ties in with his previous work, where the idea is to create a communal space. For The Bay Lights, Villareal worked with the dynamics of the bridge -- traffic, water, light, air, wildlife -- to guide the sequencing of the patterns. The patterns are created using a process known as “emergent behavior,” which means each sequence is unique and unpredictable every time the bridge lights up.

Courtesy of The Bay Lights. Photography by Lucas Saugen

Courtesy of The Bay Lights. Photography by Lucas Saugen

For such a large scale work it is no surprise that it has become a focal point for the local community, a place for them to come and marvel and appreciate their city. “For me the most successful art changes the way you see things, you can’t see things the same way once you’ve seen a great piece of art,” Villareal notes.

In the two years that it will be installed, it’s estimated that over 50 million people will see the piece. To get an idea of how the public has taken the piece to their hearts so far, take a look at some of the reactions from Twitter and Instagram.

Check out these GIFs of the sculpture too, courtesy of Mr. GIF.

This post also appears on The Creators Project, an Atlantic partner site. 

Kevin Holmes is Executive Editor of The Creators Project and lives and works in London, UK.

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