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Big-scale and bright, architectural lighting makes a Bay Area comeback.

Big-scale and bright, architectural lighting makes a Bay Area comeback

Rudolph can rest his red nose this year. In the Bay Area, other bright landmarks can help guide his master's sleigh through December's night sky. Urban architectural lighting will create a series of nighttime pageants, with buildings swathed in the beams of powerful spotlights, or wrapped--like immense Christmas gifts--in ribbons of incandescence.

Rediscovering the pleasures of radiance

Recent anniversary celebrations have sparked renewed interest in several Bay Area landmarks, and, with the energy crisis at least temporarily in abeyance, outdoor architectural lighting has become a popular way to put our cities in a festive mood. But this new radiance is really the rediscovery of an old idea.

In 1915, with the opening of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in what was to become the Marina District of San Francisco, the Bay Area saw for the first time the stunning theatrical effects that could be created by illuminating building exteriors at night.

One of the fair's most famous lighting effects, known as "The Burning of the Tower,' symbolized the burning of San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906. Searchlights swept across the tiered and columned facades of a 20-story classical wedding cake of a building, flashing from thousands of large, gyrating, mirror-backed, colored-glass "jewels.' Ruby lights concealed behind columns suffused the structure in a ruddy glow.

At the Treasure Island exposition of 1939-40, indirect lighting washed each surface in a different brilliant hue. Today's effects aren't as extravagant, but they're no less evocative.

Where to look in the Bay Area today

Some lighted landmarks are a classic part of the local night sky: San Francisco's Ferry Building, City Hall dome, and Starlight Roof, for example. But some remarkable new constellations have only recently joined the urban firmament.

The soaring, faceted towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are newly visible at night, thanks to the powerful beams of spotlights now permanently installed on the roadway deck. The idea of lighting the towers was proposed by the bridge's architect, Irving Morrow, but no funds were available. The present illumination was a gift when the bridge turned 50 last May.

The San Francisco--Oakland Bay Bridge also received a 50th birthday present: permanent strings of bulbs along the cables forming great arcs of light that swoop across the Bay.

Strings of light outlining the 40-story office buildings at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center will be lit up from the Friday after Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. To get the full effect, look across from the Bay Bridge or down from Russian Hill.

After a community fund-raising effort, the "Necklace of Lights' around Oakland's Lake Merritt was restored. Installed in 1925 and then darkened to comply with blackout regulations during World War II, the goosenecked lampposts, amber lanterns, and strings of white lights were never relit and fell into disrepair. The lights went on again in July.

Fifty new 12-foot stars will join hundreds of existing ones to shine on the northern slopes of San Bruno Mountain this Christmas season, transforming the town of Brisbane, just south of San Francisco, into a hillside of enormous illuminated ornaments. The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce makes the stars available to citizens for display on their houses or businesses. Best place to view the spectacle is from San Bruno Avenue, on the hill above Old Bayshore Highway.

Photo: Searchlight beams radiate from glowing Tower of Jewels at 1915 fair, showing dramatic effect of night illumination

Photo: "Necklace of Lights' around 3 1/2 miles of Oakland's Lake Merritt shoreline consists of 3,300 small incandescent bulbs and 148 so-called Florentine lampposts

Photo: Brilliant bands of light edge tops and sides of San Francisco's Embarcadero Center buildings, making a geometric artwork of the skyline; spire of the Transamerica pyramid adds to the effect. This festive lighting also signals extended hours for downtown shops and restaurants

Photo: The two Bill Del Chiaros, father-and-son proprietors of Brisbane Hardware, ready their star to join the Christmas constellation on slopes of San Bruno Mountain. The picture below shows how the scene looked on a previous year
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1987
Words:680
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