San Francisco’s Bay Bridge Lights Go Dark

At night, they sparkle on the water: 25,000 tiny LEDs, stretching 1.8 miles across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland. But this week, after a decade of shining on the city skyline, the light — ravaged by the harsh elements of the Bay Area — has been turned off, at least for now.

The artwork, called the Flying Lights, is installed in March 2013 as an ornament to the span often obscured by the nearby Golden Gate Bridge.

According to its creators, the installation process was never meant to last this long. Eventually, they say, the light began to succumb to the bay’s infamous wind, salt, and rain. They said expanding and narrowing the cables on the bridge also poses a challenge. Some parts was completely in the dark.

Ben Davis, founder of Illuminate, the arts nonprofit responsible for this work, said: “Current LED luminaires are failing at a faster rate than we can keep up. “Instead of letting it fall into oblivion, which is bad for San Francisco, we’re working responsibly, taking it down.”

So at 8 p.m. Sunday, Mr. Davis turned off the lights. “There was a collective groan throughout the city,” he said. “You can hear it from the riverbank.”

But the bridge may not be dark forever. Mr. Davis said his organization is hoping to raise $11 million to refurbish the installation, doubling the number of LEDs he said will be designed to order. When completed, the screen will show the remote as well as the people crossing the bridge. To date, the organization has attracted more than $6 million in commitments.

Mr. Davis said the refurbishment, which he expects to take eight to 10 months, will begin after $10 million is committed to the project. The $1 million will eventually be sought through crowdfunding, he said.

Although some have expressed concern about the environmental impact of the light sculpture, Mr Davis said it has undergone rigorous analysis to ensure the new version will be safe for wildlife as well as for the people who use it. “The power usage on these LEDs is very, very thin,” he added.

Leo Villareal, the artist who designed the Bay Lights, says he is optimistic that the organization will raise enough money to re-install the light sculpture, which, according to him, is inspired by the water pattern. and fog surrounds the bridge.

Mr Villareal added that watching it turn dark on Sunday was “happy and bitter”.

“There is a certain sadness in not having that part of the landscape,” he said. “It really became part of the fabric of San Francisco.”


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