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San Francisco's Bay Bridge Sparkles

A bridge becomes an artist's shimmering canvas in San Francisco.

a view of the Bay Bridge at night, image
Photo caption
Curtains of light ripple on the Bay Bridge.


The City by the Bay has never run short of feasts for the eyes, but light sculptor Leo Villareal has made one major landmark, the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, remarkably more luminous and arresting—every day from dusk until 2 a.m.

The Bay Lights, an inventive piece of art, shines to the north from the web of cables between the span’s four western towers, running 1.8 miles along the busy roadway that links Yerba Buena Island and the San Francisco waterfront.

“The Bay Bridge is an incredible piece of infrastructure that people obviously feel strongly about,” Villareal says. “I wanted to augment it with this other layer—technology and light as art.”

Villareal created computer software to control 25,000 white LED bulbs attached to the cables. The lights switch on and off and dim in evanescent patterns visible from some of the city’s hills and from walkways and restaurants along the Embarcadero north of the bridge.

Dark and light shapes shimmer into view, flow left, right, up, or down, then give way to evocative new figures. Is it beautiful? Visit and judge for yourself. The exhibit is scheduled to run until 2015.

Photography courtesy of Fabrice Florin/Wikimedia Commons

This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.