Recently named by USA Today as one of the top ten places to immerse yourself in digital art, The Bay Lights has transformed the San Francisco Bay area forever. The largest LED lighting sculpture in the world—once meant to be a two-year temporary installation—is now a permanent part of the city's skyline.
In 2011, the non-profit arts organization, ILLUMINATE, along with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and world-renowned artist Leo Villareal collaborated to create a stunning living display of light on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The Bay Lights, unveiled in March 2013 and originally intended as a short-term installation, quickly became a local and global "must see" attraction. Before it even went live, it was dubbed by Hemipsheres magazine as "the number one thing to see in the world during 2013."
The living sculpture also instantaneously became a source of pride for the community. It revitalized the waterfront and its economy with local bars and restaurants reporting a 30% increase in business. And, a group of more than 20 independent analysts from leading firms such as McKinsey, Deloitte, Google, Facebook and city agencies unanimously agreed that The Bay Lights boosts the regional economy by more than $100m annually.
With such a broad social and economic impact, there was no question that The Bay Lights should become a permanent feature in the San Francisco skyline. Bridge officials agreed to maintain the lights on an ongoing basis if ILLUMINATE could raise the funds necessary to keep the artwork as a permanent installation. ILLLUMINATE kicked off a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds, and along with donations from larger donors, was able to meet the goal. In March 2015, the Bay Lights went dark for 11 months while the previous system was removed and replaced.
The new system—utilizing 25,000 nodes of eW Flex Compact—was specifically engineered to withstand harsh weather environments like that of the San Francisco Bay area.
The permanent installation also incorporates ActiveSite, a cloud-based connected lighting platform that helps to minimize downtime and allows for more efficient management of the iconic landmark with benefits including remote diagnostics, reporting, data analytics, and control.
The new Bay Lights was unveiled on January 30, 2016. At that time, ILLUMINATE officially gifted the artwork to the people of California. People can still support ILLUMINATE's efforts by dedicating one of the 25,000 light nodes on the bridge through the the non-profit's Shine it Forward program. (SIF.illuminate.org)
"The original Bay Lights installation served as a major source of pride in San Francisco and helped to increase tourism in the area," said Saeed Shahmirzai of Zoon Engineering, the Bay Bridge MEP Integrator. "Thanks to advanced LED and system monitoring technology from Color Kinetics, we are able to build on those benefits and install an energy-efficient work of art that makes the Bay Bridge a true beacon of the San Francisco Bay Area."