Should the Bay Lights Stay Up? (Poll)


And do we even need it, what with that gorgeous new eastern span?

In 2015, Bay Lights, the illuminated art piece running along the western span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, will come to an end. Well, maybe. This March, the massive installation will be taked down so that Caltrans can perform maintenance on the bridge cables. Illuminate the Arts, the group responsible for the piece, needs to raise a cool $4 million to get the project back up and running again. As of this week, around $1.7 million has been raised to keep the lights shining, with only $293,000 more needed by December 31. (Local philanthropist Tad Taube has come forward with a $2 million matching grant.)

What was initially supposed to be a temporary work could now be permanent. Hmm.

San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King, however, thinks it's time for Bay Light to dim. Calling it a "one-sided show" (the lights are only visible from the north side of the city; Potrero and Bay View can't see the nightly twinkle show), he argues

"The discrepancy hits at the awkwardness of treating the region’s most robust work of architectural engineering as nothing more than a canvas, a canvas for the visual equivalent of background music. There’s no inherent relation to the site and no real kinship with the structure. A suspension bridge is all about the rhythmic straddling of the surface, strong cables draped from towers holding up a solid deck. What we get with “Bay Lights” is thin, evenly spaced verticality, glowing folded napkins in the dark.

"There’s something else missing: the sense of a special occasion.

"By comparison, think of the lighting that outlines the towers of Embarcadero Center this time of year. They come on in November and go dark in January. The novelty is part of the appeal, the mark of passing time. When not visible, they’re in our collective memory."


If you see Bay Lights continue to shine, and want to throw down some coins to keep it up, feel free to donate here.

Related Articles