This massive, sprawling structure has stood as an iconic presence on the bay since its opening in 1987. Every night for the last three decades, however, the substructure of this four-mile landmark bridge has disappeared into the darkness. By washing the sizable piers in light and illuminating the silhouette of the dramatic roadway span with delicate necklace lights, the lighting designers were able to craft a new signature identity for the bridge and address critical safety needs for small boats and large cruise ships that cross the bay at night.

The complexity of the installation required the design team to calculate horizontal and vertical aiming angles for every one of nearly 1,400 pier luminaires, determined through painstaking AGI calculations for each of the 48 piers, including the two iconic towers. These calculations needed to account for the tilt and rise of the bridge in two directions and were updated repeatedly as existing conditions were discovered and documented.

Each pier and each necklace light can be independently controlled, paving the way for the creation of detailed, kinetic programs. With input from local transportation agency stakeholders, the lighting designers developed programming scenarios centred around images evocative of the local area.
The abstracted scenes inspired by swaying palms, waves, or designed to celebrate holidays and community events are displayed on the structure on a rotating nightly schedule. The owner can also manually customize displays through a colour picker within the user interface that allows them to display static colour schemes for unanticipated events. Additionally, a custom user interface enables manual selection of static scenarios, allowing alternating piers and all of the necklace lights to be a different colour.

At nighttime, the individual and unique scenes come to life. “Majestic” describes both this programmed scenario and the iconic bridge itself. Tones of purple in many levels of saturation wash slowly across the structure. “Verdant Green” conjures palm trees swaying in the breeze, with shades of green revealing glimpses of blue sky between the fronds. “Warm Gateway” welcomes cruise ships into the harbor as large, symmetrical accordion doors open up and fold away to reveal the dynamic, dancing lights inside. “Waves” wash across the structure and crash on shore, ebbing and flowing to evoke the familiar movement of the ocean. Festive holidays like New Year’s or Independence Day are celebrated with “Fireworks” shooting across the structure, in random and progressively more frequent explosions of colour. More sombre, patriotic remembrances are recognized with a simple “Waving Flag” motif. However, not all dynamic scenarios require colour to create impactful visuals. “Elegant Sparkle” utilizes a shimmering, warm white light effect that dazzles with its simplicity. Together these dynamic scenes create a rotating collection of lighting programs that dazzle locals, tourists, motorists and boaters every night of the week.

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