The Port of San Diego and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) have joined forces to create a ribbon of light across San Diego Bay, anchored to the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, to create “ ‘a distinct sense of place’ that will withstand the test of time,” the Port of San Diego announced last week. (CalTrans has jurisdiction over, and operates and maintains, the bridge.)
For decades cities around the world have used light to make the ordinary, extraordinary. When initially promoting the project, the port released this video showing San Diego’s “opportunity to make a dramatic, compelling and indelible mark on the skyline of America’s Finest City.”
The bridge lighting will be designed by the Peter Fink Team in collaboration with with Spears and Major Associates and Buro Happold. The London-based artist was chosen in 2010 after an international competition for an environmentally friendly lighting design.
Fink and his team have illuminated a number of public spaces, across the globe, including The Three Graces in Pasadena’s Theatre District, the Canary Wharf Tower in London and the River of Light in Pittsburgh.
Finks original “aesthetic vision included acknowledging the bridge as both a welcoming nautical gateway and as a landmark connector linking communities in San Diego and Coronado” by using programmable LED luminaries to light the bridge’s outer deck and pillars, said Yvonne Wise, Chief Curator for the Port of San Diego. She and the port commission expect that the team will employ newer LED lighting technologies that have advanced since the original concept. “With this type of technology the design possibilities are endless,” Wise said.
The original design suggested pillar light color changes for seasons, holidays and special events. Port Commission Chairman Marshall Merrifield is already thinking about special Fourth of July displays or even one for that day, probably far into the future he admits, when the Padres win the World Series.
The bridge lighting project was shelved when commissioners questioned whether taxpayers would want their money used for the project during the recession. There was also concern on the part of some commissioners that the communities adjacent to the bridge might object to the lights. It was the cost and the use of public money that stalled the project, Merrifield said.
Last month the port commission voted unanimously to help fund the project with public donations through its Percent for Art Program. This requires developers and some tenant leaseholders to set aside one-percent of their development budget for public art. Instead of using the money for an installation on their own projects, they have the option to contribute that money to the bridge lights, Merrifield explained. Right now the port has multiple large projects and redevelopment in the works including the Anthony’s Fish Grotto and Seaport Village overhauls.
So far the port has raised $100,000 toward the $8 million project. The money came from the development consortium of Portman Holding, Robert Lankford, and Hemsel Phelps, who are building a 19-story 400 room InterContinental Hotel at the corner of West Broadway and Pacific Highway.
“We saw it as a good place spend some of our art budget, seeing that half of our guests can see the bridge from their rooms,” Roger Zampell, the group’s spokesperson, said.
Merrifield believes InterContinental Hotel’s donation is just the beginning. “I’ve talked to others who are interested in contributing,” he said. Port tenants aren’t the only ones who will be asked to contribute.
“We envision that a capital fundraising campaign will be needed to raise the funds for the project,” Wise said.
If all goes as planned the bridge will be aglow by July 2019, just in time of the 50th anniversary of the bridge. It was in the summer of 1969 that people motored across the bay for the first time and linked Coronado to Barrio Logan.
City Councilman David Alvarez, whose district includes Barrio Logan, sees the bridge lighting project as “something that will benefit both communities,” said his spokesperson Lisa Maytorena Schmidt.