Upon the unveiling of our beautiful, new Bay Bridge in 2013—with its string lights and palm tree adornments - the skeleton of the old, decrepit bridge waited in the background. Comprised of tons upon tons of steel, the disassembling of the bridge inspired artists and designers from all over the state to step in and ask for a piece of the historical structure.
With the help of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, the Oakland Museum of California quickly stepped in and established the Bay Bridge Steel Program. The aim was simple: award original bridge steel to artists and designers across the state of California.
Of the fifteen artists awarded was Tom Loughlin, a celebrated local artist whose work has been displayed at Minnesota Street Project, YBCA, and The Lab, among many other venues. The outcome of his work is “Signal,” an interactive work made from three 12-ton girders from the former Eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge and a rare, original signal light from the top of the bridge.
“Signal,” by San Francisco-based conceptual artist Tom Loughlin, is With a panoramic view of the Bay Area and its bridges, visitors can step into the sculpture and experience soft pulses of light from the signal lamp and a low, humming vibration calibrated to mimic the unforgettable blare of a foghorn.
“The aim of the piece is to call to mind various rhythms that intersect in the San Francisco Bay,” he explained. “The pulsing light and sound of the sculpture point to the navigational aids, bridges, and other structures we’ve put into the bay to assist our travel. I hope they will also evoke the natural rhythm of tides and sunrises and weather changes, and our own biological rhythms.”
As a work of public art, “Signal” is open to all and free to visit. The immersive experience of the piece speaks for itself, asking the viewer to remember the history and trajectory of our city and consider our place in it. Looking at the massive creation, one cannot help but contemplate the herculean feat of taking a land as wild and untamable as San Francisco, and successfully traversing it through tools, technology, and understanding.
// Photography by Peter Salcido. Signal is now open to the public through 2022. It is located on the western edge of Treasure Island, only 50 meters from the restaurant Mersea. For more information, the public can visit signalsf.com.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.