Every evening the Bay Lights turn the San Francisco Bay Bridge into a shimmering, mesmerizing nighttime LED light sculpture.

The Bay Lights is 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high LED light sculpture. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, artist Leo Villareal  creates a never repeating, dazzling display of 25,000 LED white lights through March 2015 across the western span of the Bay Bridge.

San Francisco Bay Bridge lights
San Francisco Bay Bridge lights
San Francisco Bay Bridge lights Photo By Nicholas Hartmann [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Technology

The Bay Lights is a monumental light sculpture inspired by the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge, now called the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge. Artist Leo Villareal networked 25,000 individually programmable, white LEDs made by Philips to create complex algorithms and patterns across the western span of the bridge. This contemporary art piece is the world’s largest LED light sculpture.

Installation of the LED system took place at night to minimize impact on motorists. A crew of 8-10 electricians worked Monday through Friday, 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., to install the piece.

bay bridge from treasure island
bay bridge from treasure island
bay bridge lights from treasure island

Grand Re-Lighting

The Bay Lights was removed from the bridge in March 2015 (per the original permit) to allow Caltrans to perform maintenance on the cables. ILLUMINATE raised $4 million to ensure The Bay Lights re-installation, in time to shine for Super Bowl 50 in February 2016. The final raise was made possible by Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube, whose $2 million challenge grant inspired other donors to give the remaining amount needed to re-install the sculpture.

The grand re-lighting was January 30, 2016. The re-installed sculpture uses all new, robust LEDs designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions over time.

The Bay Lights artwork has been be gifted to the State of California for ongoing stewardship. Following the precedent of the necklace lights that were added to the suspension cables in 1986 and became a fixture of the Bay Bridge in 1989, The Bay Lights will become a permanent part of the western span, maintained by Caltrans.

THE BAY LIGHTS BY THE NUMBERS

• 1.8 MILES: length of The Bay Lights from end to end (approximately 26.4 football fields) • 12 INCHES: space between individual LED lights in strand mounted on each cable • 500 FEET: height of the installation to the tallest point • 300: number of vertical cables on the bridge that fitted with LED lights • 240 FEET: length of the longest bridge cable • 2 FEET: length of the shortest bridge cable • 728: number of power and data boxes used in the light sculpture system • 100,000 FEET: linear feet of cable for power, fiber and Cat 5 wires in the system • $8 MILLION: total cost of the initial project to make The Bay Lights a reality • 50 MILLION: estimated number of people dazzled by The Bay Lights during its initial two-year presence • $1 BILLION: estimate of dollars The Bay Lights will add to the local economy over 10 years after re-installation

Nearby Points of Interest

Union Square: Just 1.3 miles northeast. It offers hours of shopping, dining, and people watching.

Chinatown: is a few blocks from Union Square, and the Westfield Shopping Centre is even closer on Market Street.

Alcatraz Island: this island prison is now a famous tourist attraction, but in its heyday, it housed the era’s most infamous prisoners. Inmates could hear laughter carried across the water from the city, and many attempted the one-mile swim to land. Visit today for a tour!

Coit Tower: don’t miss the panorama from the 210-foot high tower, which offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline.

North Beach / Little Italy:  Little Italy offers a variety of bars, comedy clubs, and authentic Italian restaurants. Try some focaccia bread, or take a walk in the relaxing green space of Washington Square.

Bay Lights Sculpture on the Bay Bridge is featured on:

  • Public Tour
    Lucky Tuk Tuk at Night - San Francisco Lights Tour

    Available Nightly

    7:30 pm

    How long?
    Approx. 2 hours
    When?
    Nightly
    Do we fit?
    Seats 6 (Ages 5+)
    How much?
    From $65.00

    Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!