The Bay Lights Turn On

Leo Villareal's brilliant bridge concept becomes a reality in the world's largest light installation with 25,000 LEDs


When we last checked in with Leo Villareal one year ago, he had just proposed The Bay Lights, an ambitious project aimed at blanketing San Francisco’s Bay Bridge with 25,000 outward-facing LEDs for a light show of epic proportions. Like many concepts, the idea was almost too fantastical to believe, but The Bay Lights is about to be fully realized when the switch is flipped at a “grand lighting” tomorrow, 5 March 2013.

1.8 miles long and 500 feet high, the bridge makes for an utterly imposing canvas. Add to that its status as little brother to the Golden Gate Bridge, and you’ll understand why Villareal wanted to go above and beyond with this installation. In creating algorithms to control the lights, Villareal took inspiration from the waves, traffic and wind of the area, producing light patterns that can run for two years without repeating.


The larger-than-life lighting commemorates the 75th anniversary of the bridge, as well as the construction of the Eastern Span, a project that is finally set to complete this year after over a decade of work. Amazingly, the project was able to raise $8 million in funding through private donors. “Being able to create this monumental piece of public art that millions of people will see at no cost is a tremendous honor,” said Villareal in a press release, noting that $2.2 million are still needed to fully fund The Bay Lights, which is estimated to add $97 million to the local economy.

MediaOne will be broadcasting the event online from 8:30-9:30pm PT, and the website also has a list of public viewing spots for those who will be in the area. To learn more about Villareal, watch our video on the artist from 2007.

Images by Lucas Saugen