Leo Villareal. The Bay Lights

Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights, 2013. Video by James Ewing. Courtesy of Leo Villareal.

Spanning 1.8 miles across the San Francisco Bay, Leo Villareal’s monumental light sculpture The Bay Lights (2013), one of the artist’s most ambitious projects, captures the atmospheric wonder of the city. Envisioning the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge as a canvas, he developed a plan to install and program 25,000 custom-designed LEDs along the bridge’s suspension cables. On an early site visit, Villareal walked a cable to the top of a bridge tower; five hundred feet over the traffic and rippling water, the feeling of fog and movement of air and water captured the artist’s imagination. With a crew of engineers, he had the north side of the western span of the bridge laced with delicate electronics that he could control through his computer. For months after the installation was complete, Villareal sat beneath the bridge with his laptop, live programming the lights and trying to channel the awe he felt from the top of the tower by creating a set of parameters that allow unique sequences to occur every time the bridge lights up.1

  1. Leo Villareal, “Light and Code as a Medium in the 21st Century,” lecture given at TEDx Talks, Orient Harbor, New York, September 2017, video, 15:13 minutes, available at youtube.com/watch?v=aQWYvzwXkkM. ↩︎