San Francisco Fine Art: The Making of the Bay Lights

Craft & Design
San Francisco Fine Art: The Making of the Bay Lights


Artist Leo Villareal, along with colleagues Amy Critchett, and Saeed Shahmirzai came to Maker Faire Bay Area this year to discuss their work on the Bay Lights project, an art piece that uses 25,000 animated LEDs across the entire 1.8 mile span of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

The project came about as a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Bay Bridge, and can be seen all over the Bay Area. One of the challenges in building the installation was in working closely with CalTrans so as not to disturb the functionality of the bridge. As a result, the team was not allowed to making any physical modifications whatsoever to the bridge.

The piece was achieved with thousands of Philips LED nodes that are individually addressable and have 255 levels of brightness. Surprisingly enough, they were attached to the cables on the bridge with zip ties, and strung together with a fiber optic cable that ran the entire span.

As far as we know, it is the largest LED-based public artwork. It’s currently scheduled to run every night for the next two years, but they are in discussion to make the installation permanent.

See the video of their talk below for more information.

San Francisco Fine Art: The Making of the Bay Lights from Maker Faire on

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

View more articles by Michael Colombo