For a few months now, I’ve been talking to my new neighbors here in California about my old friend Leo Villareal’s proposed epic installation on the Bay Bridge, commemorating the Bridge’s 75th anniversary and the completion of the new East Span in 2013. You can find more about it here, including some great visualizations, but the shorthand description from the promotional site is this:
Created with over 25,000 energy efficient, white LED lights, it is 1½ miles wide and 500 feet high... The Bay Lights is a monumental tour de force seven times the scale of the Eiffel Tower’s 100th Anniversary lighting.
There’s been a lot of buzz about this project, and it seems like it has a very good chance of being made thanks to the $3M challenge grant they’ve received. This would be terrific news. There’s no question in my mind that The Bay Lights would become an iconic example of grand urban art: a digital-age Gates or Wrapped Reichstag. Visually it will be intoxicating, I have no doubt. But I think there’s an important element to The Bay Lights that makes it uniquely appropriate to the Bay Area context. Leo is an environmental/algorithmic artist. Leo’s installations are, literally, programs. There are many interesting artists tinkering with software and human interfaces now, but most of their work lives on the screen or in a browser. Leo’s code lives outdoors, on a grand scale. He writes software for cities, not screens.
So I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the bridge at the heart of the Bay Area than with an immense work by one of the most acclaimed algorithmic artists of our time. The world capital of code should have a coder/artist as its Christo. Let’s make it happen.