Arts nonprofit proposes subway-inspired light sculpture above Market Street 

click to enlarge The nonprofit Illuminate the Arts has proposed The LightRail, billed as the “world’s first subway-responsive light sculpture" above a 2-mile stretch of Market Street. - COURTESY THELIGHTRAIL.ORG
  • Courtesy thelightrail.org
  • The nonprofit Illuminate the Arts has proposed The LightRail, billed as the “world’s first subway-responsive light sculpture" above a 2-mile stretch of Market Street.

A multimillion-dollar project that would string LED lights reflecting the movement of underground trains above a 2-mile stretch of Market Street could be installed as early as next year. But it must first clear The City's permitting process, which includes obtaining permission to install 80 utility boxes on the landmarked Path of Gold light standards.

The LightRail, the "world's first subway-responsive light sculpture," is being proposed by Illuminate the Arts, the group that also strung diode lights on the western span of the Bay Bridge.

Illuminate the Arts founder Ben Davis said he hopes to clear the permitting process within the next two months and raise private funds for the project, including for maintenance, in time for installation early next year. But that could prove challenging.

On June 18, the Historic Preservation Commission will review the proposed use of the light standards, described as a "significant legacy from the City Beautiful movement of the early-20th century." The Citizens Advisory Committee for the Central Market and Tenderloin Area will also be briefed on the plan today.

Under the proposal, LED light tubes would be suspended from the Muni overhead caternary system. In order to power the lights, 11.5-by-40-by-8-inch-deep utility boxes would be installed on 83 of 194 Path of Gold poles along the 2.1-mile stretch between Van Ness Avenue and The Embarcadero, according to a Planning Department staff report. The boxes would be painted to match the poles and the installation is expected to be disassembled sometime in 2018.

A May 28 Planning Department staff memo raises a number of concerns about the box installations, such as being in "conflict with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards" and how they "are not compatible with the stylized [Path of Gold] standards." Additionally, the report said the boxes would "result in a cumulative visual change to a significant portion of the POG."

The art installation comes amid an ongoing effort to revitalize the mid-Market Street area, which is anchored by new tech tenants like Twitter.

The Arts Commission would need to approve the project as well.

"It's going to complement a whole range of things happening on Market Street," said Jill Manton, Arts Commission director of policy and planning.

Correction: This story was updated June 18 to correct the location of Illuminate the Arts' diode display on the Bay Bridge.

Lightrail - Making mass transit more magical from michelebaggio on Vimeo.

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