The Wonders of the Modern World are an amalgamation of the evolved effort, creativity, and increased ingenuity that mankind has been building for years. These wonders include The Empire State Building, Panama Canal, and the CN tower, just to name a few. One that tends to elicit familiarity worldwide is the elongated, bright red bridge under the body of the shimmering San Francisco bay; The San Francisco Bay Bridge. The project to construct this bridge was commenced on January 5, 1933, being completing in April 1937. That is nearly half a decade! One should keep in mind that this remarkable, intricate, perilous project managed to survive the American Great Depression. According to GoCalifornia Magazine, on a daily basis, this architectural masterpiece receives nearly two hundred fifty thousand crossings into San Francisco. Aside from its colossal size, another astonishing aspect of this bridge is the way its lights shine brighter than the diamonds of Sierra Leone at the break of dusk. The question really is then, what is the story behind these lights, and why do they appear more majestic than the gate itself? The answer lies behind the symbolism of light and Leo Villareal.
Celebrating seventy five years worth of providing beauty and history, in January of 2013, the bridge was adorned with twenty five thousand LED lights, which will shine and undulate non-repentantly for the next TWO years consecutively! Without a doubt, this project was a technological marvel. The lights shine through until two o’clock AM every day. Take a moment just to think about that; being in the presence of lights that cover 1.8 miles, and can be seen from light years away, and then witnessing them go out within a split-second. Really makes one see the importance and splendor of light in the midst of darkness. We have Mister Leo Villareal, the artist behind the Bay Lights, to thank for this.
Leo Villareal is internationally known for his light sculptures and sight specific architectural works. Receiving his BA at Yale University, and his graduate degree from NYU Tisch School of Art, Villareal is a man who clearly puts his gifted contemplations to the plate. He has his art displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to the Contemporary Art Museum in Japan. His artwork takes a twist on the modern norm, leading to stunning and breath taking pieces of architecture and sculpture, merged with the philosophy of art. When asked about his inspiration behind the Bay Lights in a CNN interview, he stated,
“Light has a very universal quality; almost anyone can see it and have some response to it. It’s operating on a very primal level. I feel like the beauty of San Francisco has been focused on the Golden Gate Bridge, and I hoped this would give it more recognition.”
The Bay Lights are more defined by technological restraint than any other thing. Driven by his artistic revelation, Villareal did not include technology for technology’s sake. For example, he could have used LED’s that displayed millions of colors, each varying in hue. Instead, he opted for LED’s that display 256 shades of white. He could have had the lights designed to formulate images of waves, flocks of birds, etc. In its place, he mastered technological restraint and put forth a compelling simple, reverie of artistic simplicity.Don’t get the idea wrong; the Bay Lights are a technological feat. Getting that many lights to operate at the same time, producing a different pattern and shade, is nearly as miraculous as licking your own elbow. The truth of the matter is technology is used as a means, not an end, in order to achieve what Mister Villareal’s vision. This judicious technological restraint is truly what defines the, ‘user experience’, of the Bay of Lights. When in the presence of the piece, most people say they do not analyze the technology behind it. They feel transformed into a sublime space; one of humanity, one of the universe, and touched by community consciousness. This mystical aura is what emanates from the magnum opus each and every night. These lights represent a nexus between art and the human experience with their contrasting representation of the utter oblivion of darkness and the warmth and divinity of the light.
Check out more of Leo Villareal’s art, and more information on the Bay Lights at http://thebaylights.org/.
By: Amy El-Zayaty