Bay Bridge to outshine ‘that other bridge’

For decades the Bay Bridge has been overshadowed by its beloved younger cousin to the West. But come the new year, it will play second fiddle to the Golden Gate Bridge no longer.

Early in 2013, the public will be allowed to revel in The Bay Lights, an art installation that will turn the classically gray Bay Bridge into a spectacular display of flashing, pulsating and moving lights.

Created by artist Leo Villareal, the Bay Bridge’s west span will be dressed with more than 25,000 energy-efficient, individually controlled white LED lights that will play out mesmerizing patterns without repeating.

And the most exciting part? The display won’t be a one-night or even six-month event. Enjoy the free show, kids: It will last from dusk to midnight every day for two years.

The $8 million project was the brainchild of Ben Davis, the founder of San Francisco’s Words Pictures Ideas creative agency that branded the Bay Bridge east span. The inspiration came to him in the dry heat of Nevada’s Burning Man festival:

“It was a little frustrating to see all that fantastic energy manifest itself and disappear when we could really use it in the same way in the space that people live. […] I wanted to re-celebrate and call attention to the beauty of the Bay Bridge.”

Davis took his idea to Villareal, an internationally renowned installation artist known for his work with LEDs and illuminated displays. Together they worked to create an experience that would metaphorically reflect:

“…all the things a bridge stands for, you know connectivity and mobility, but also elegance.”

The Bay Lights’ glimmering price tag has been funded entirely from private sources, but its impact will be felt by all Bay Area residents. According to the Bay Lights Website, an informal economic impact assessment conservatively estimates $97 million will be added to the local economy as a result of the project.

The grand lighting ceremony date doesn’t appear to be final — the Bay Lights Website states February 7, while Potrero View says January — however, the bridge will certainly be dolled up in time for her 80th birthday in July. the 80th anniversary of the start of her construction in July.