San Francisco-based artist, Jim Campbell, who is known for his work with LEDs, has been commissioned to illuminate the crown of San Francisco’s 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce (a.k.a. Transbay) Tower.

Campbell’s installation will consist of four integrated lighting schemes across the top nine “floors” of the tower, the upper two-thirds of which will consist of perforated aluminum panels, the bottom third of which is a glass curtainwall matching the exterior of the tower shaft below.

The aluminum panels will be lit with 11,000 LEDs capable of display low-resolution moving color imagery which is to be a combination of pre-recorded images and taken from cameras surrounding the City.

And while externally mounted, the LEDs will be inward facing to reflect off the building and yield a soft and continuous image “instead of a harsh direct image like a Times Square video screen.”

In addition to the external LEDs, the installation includes three internal lighting systems within the top two-thirds of the perforated crown: the lower wash, lantern and constellation.

The lower wash lights will be located within the lower, glazed portion of the crown and will be activated to complement exterior imagery on the aluminum panels.

The lantern will articulate the core of the tower by lighting the internal staircase for roof access.

And finally, constellation will be the final display of the nighttime sequence before dawn, comprised of a series of spheres randomly suspended in the 3D space of the crown.

From the artist with respect to the work:

“My goal is to create an integrated dynamic image system that presents a softness of light in both space and time. This system will define the nighttime personality of the building in the context of the skyline.

The artwork is part of the building and the building is part of the city. In this sense the work will not function as a billboard, but will be an expression of the building and its relationship to the city.

The artwork manifests a poetic presence in both form and content that is inseparable from the gestalt of the building which is inseparable from the city.”

The installation, along with a smaller companion piece at the base of the tower, were commissioned to satisfy San Francisco’s Planning Code Section 429, more commonly known as the city’s “1 percent for the arts” program.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by MKP

    love it!!! this and the bay lights are great pieces of public art for SF

    • Posted by Orland

      I think I’ll withhold judgement until I see it.

  2. Posted by Nate

    Can they please do this?

  3. Posted by Snark17

    It seems ridiculous. Does the tallest building in SF need a rotating light show?

    • Posted by that_dude

      Yes, because our modern buildings are incredibly lackluster downtown.

  4. Posted by Brisket

    The first image looks like Salesforce workers trying to jump through a cage in a vain attempt at suicide. I’m guessing that wasn’t the artist’s intent.

  5. Posted by ananimal

    Just the tip.

  6. Posted by Tank_Hill

    Personally, I think this is a very good proposal. Jim Campbell is a renowned and established artist, it would be an insult to call this a light show; it’s an art installation… very well thought-out and not overpowering – compared to some of the Asian night skylines (e.g. Shanghai) that feature very bright and glaring colors.

    It also complements very nicely with the Bay Bridge LED installation.

  7. Posted by Jay78

    Are those meant to be scarecrows in the first illumination?

  8. Posted by Joe

    Couple items:
    1) “We’re SF and we dont need no stinking fancy pants art”
    2) Looks cool, and I look forward to checking this out
    3) Notice oceanwide center!

    • Posted by Orland

      Regarding the Oceanside development, these illustrations are clearly compressed making the future skyline more regular (and attractive IMO). In fact, Salesforce will rather dramatically tower over its neighbors.

      • Posted by SocketSite

        The tallest of the Oceanwide towers will rise to a height of 910 feet, which is within two feet of the roof height of Salesforce Tower, not including its crown. That’s pretty much exactly as relatively rendered in the images above. And if anything, we find that people are underestimating how high the 50 First Street tower will rise.

        Now back to the installation and topic at hand…

  9. Posted by c_q

    Maybe they could put some more ‘practical’ displays up – like a weather status, a giant clock, and also a warning in case of NK missile launch.

    I don’t suppose it will be ready to show warriors colors in a little over a month?

    • Posted by SocketSite

      As envisioned, prerecorded imagery will be integrated into the sequencing, with consistent timing, to create…a (somewhat abstract) clock.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Agree – like the old Hancock building in Boston; you can tell the weather or, in summer, if the Sox won, by the color of the tower.

  10. Posted by Eddy

    Very cool. I like it. Wonder if they will use it to commemorate highlight moments in the city like championships, 4th July, Dreamforce ;), etc…

  11. Posted by Snowbored

    I’m fine with colored unmoving lights, and the lantern and constellation features seem neat. But I think animated lights on buildings are hideous. 555 mission’s crown does an animated red white and blue thing or disco rainbow thing that are awful. The kaiser building in mission bay by 280 has red neon-seeming “heartbeat” patterns and sometimes ugly wipes between colors every few seconds, though at least they toned down how it cast across the face of that building recently.

    Have to wait and see how it comes out but I’m pessimistic. Make the architecture interesting enough it doesn’t need a light show.

    • Posted by donjuan

      I disagree. The more light and animation, the better.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        +1 … as long as it’s not too hyperactive or garish, I think a little movement and change in the lights is great thing.

  12. Posted by Kento

    Just was in Hong Kong and I love when all the buildings light up at night…. 2017 anyone?

  13. Posted by Frisco

    Architectural lighting should address and relate to the building, not treat it as a blank canvas for a different artistic medium. All respect to Mr Campbell but pure nonobjective light is called for here, not moving pictures.

  14. Posted by Snark17

    It seems gimmicky and weird. Was this part of the building design?

  15. Posted by Drew P

    I fear that this will distract folks driving on the bay bridge and there will be an uptick in vehicular incidents.

  16. Posted by Schlub

    The “lantern” phase looks nefarious, a bit like Sauron’s eye or a nuclear core breach

  17. Posted by Don

    The wash of (occasionally) colored light and the constellation effect sound great, but that’s kind of enough. It’s a building, not a tv set; I can see the lit portion from my house, a very long ways away, and I don’t want to always be squinting and trying to figure out what’s on tonight. On the other hand, fireworks off the top off the thing would be fabulous.

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    And of course, once this is up and people accept it, the next step is commercial advertising replacing the “public art” so that the landlord can make even more money.

    By then the electronics for creating giant outdoor moving 3D holograms will have been perfected. The ads jutting out between buildings as depicted in the 2017 movie Ghost in the Shell or 1982’s Blade Runner will have successfully predicted our future more accurately than Star Trek.

    • Posted by donjuan

      That’s pure speculation and extremely unlikely. Are they showing ads on the bay bridge lights? We’re lucky to have someone like Jim Campbell do this type of sophisticated, technical achievement. And people here are moaning and groaning that maybe one day they’ll use it for ads. Typical SF.

      • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

        A private investor doesn’t own the bay bridge, last time I checked, so that isn’t a great example of how to think about what might happen. Also the technology hasn’t quite developed yet, so of course we’re not seeing it anywhere now. But anyone who saw what happened at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival has to understand the possibility.

        When the time comes, the person trying to monetize the tops of a future tower by playing holographic 3d ads from it will attempt to rationalize it by saying “Why is S.F. getting in the way of our innovation? We’re a homegrown, S.F. company disrupting the roadside sign industry and delivering value to advertisers!” or some drivel like that.

  19. Posted by fogmachine

    Won’t be complete until we can play Tetris on it.

  20. Posted by pablito

    It’s basically a giant TV on top of the building. The “Art” part is all in how it’s used. Benioff seems ethical – but what about the next guy / bank that owns the building? Wells Fargo or United? If they bought the building then they wouldn’t​ have any qualms about using the giant TV to make a quick buck….

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      OMG! If only there were laws regulating public signage and advertising! Imagine a world where there were regulations governing such things! … oh, wait … we *do* already regulate signage, and advertising, and billboards. So … next concern?

      • Posted by Sabbie

        Sao Paulo banned all billboards and 70% of citizens approve. As have Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska. Maybe SF needs to reconsider it’s progressive cred until it does the same. How much electricity are the digital ones using?

      • Posted by pablito

        That’s a rather simple minded approach to a valid concern. Enforcement of land use laws seems to rank at the bottom of the totem pole in SF. How many years/ decades did it take SF to address Academy of Art University zoning volations? What about the dozens of people like Mel Murphy? Their illegal, substandard, renovations endangering their neighbors? Having a regulation is not a solution if it is not enforced.

      • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

        We have laws regulating people opening small, irregularly occuipied and serviced hotels in residential neighborhoods. The owners of AirBnB, VRBO and their ilk don’t care about those laws because such laws get in the way of them making money. We also have laws against people operating irregular unlicensed taxi services. Travis Kalanick regards these laws as nothing but an impediment to his building a $62 billion plus valuation company, Uber, and doesn’t care about them.

        So…you can understand that someone just saying that we have laws regulating public signage and outdoor advertising maybe isn’t too reassuring? When the time comes, the future Brian Chesky of 3d, full-motion outdoor holographic advertising will go right ahead regardless of what any laws on the books say. And then they’ll go to a techcrunch conference and brag about it.

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