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Fremont Bridge light show celebrates multi-bridge centennial

The display will slowly shift as seasons change

Alexandra Ostenberg

Those crossing over or under the Fremont Bridge during darker hours may notice something new: slowly oscillating, colorful lights illuminating the bridge, soaking up through the grate.

It’s part of an art installation celebrating the centennial of Seattle’s bascule bridges—that’s the Fremont Bridge, the Ballard Bridge, and the University Bridge. The first two turned 100 in 2017; the latter has another year to go.

The Fremont installation is, ideally, the first of three installations, although the Seattle Department of Transportation is waiting on some private funding to light up the Ballard and University bridges. This installation came through courtesy of Seattle’s 1 Percent for Arts program—which paid for artists Hayley Buckbee and Ian Campbell—and an electricity rebate.

The installation is permanent, with colors slowly shifting as seasons change. Buckbee told Curbed Seattle that part of the concept is to “engage the cycles that happen in our environment.” That means not only seasonal cycles, solar cycles, and lunar cycles, but the cycles of city life like the boats, cars, and transit that interact with the bridge every day.

“[If] you come here every day, you can slowly start to see the change on the bridge itself,” said Buckbee.

Fremont itself provided its own inspiration, with the neighborhood’s, as Buckbee puts it, “artistic culture and community.”

“This is kind of a gateway in many ways from the city to Fremont,” explained Buckbee. We wanted it to be this magical moment where the stars aligned.”

The piece has been in development for about a year and a half, said Buckbee, and required a lot of studio time to get exactly right. Because light colors react differently than paint colors, “we had to do a lot of testing to figure out what reacts well. We have all these ideas for light, but what really works?”

When the bridge opens, the lights stay on, creating its own kind of effect—but in the future, Buckbee hopes to program in something extra to “celebrate” the opening.

The light show will continue indefinitely from the evening through the early morning, adjusting for dusk and dawn as seasons change.