Here are four illuminated buildings worth discovering – two of San Francisco’s oldest and two of its newest – that glow with a colorful luminescence after dark.

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May 17, 2019

Go at Night - San Francisco's Best Illuminated Buildings

Thanks to advances in fully controllable light-emitting diodes (LEDs), artists, designers and even architects are using these colorful, low-energy, eco-friendly lights to enhance our lives in many ways, from the very practical to the stunningly beautiful. Here are five illuminated buildings worth discovering—some old and some new—that glow with a colorful luminescence after dark.

Everything is Illuminated at San Francisco City Hall

Built as the "People’s Palace" in 1915, San Francisco's City Hall is the crown jewel of Civic Center Plaza. On June 19, 2015, it also became a massive architectural “canvas” when a dazzling 100th Anniversary multimedia light show was created by San Francisco-based Obscura Digital for its Centennial Celebration. The digital multimedia projection system is now city-owned and can be used for a variety of events to beam everything from environmentally friendly forests to ferocious dragons or a brilliant illuminated rainbow honoring San Francisco’s Pride celebration upon the building.

Moscone Center's Light Display

Leo Villarreal, the same artist who created "Bay Lights," now has a light art display on Moscone Center's new predestrian bridge. "Point Cloud" is comprised of an array of lights that twinkle on the ceiling of this bridge. While the best viewing times are after sunset, "Point Cloud" also has a daytime presence. So if you find yourself walking along Howard and Third streets, be sure to get a glimpse of this remarkable installation.

The Top of Salesforce Tower Shines Bright

Salesforce Tower, San Francisco's tallest building and the tallest building west of the Mississippi, stands at an impressive 1,070 feet tall. Its nine-story light art installation, "Day for Night," will permanently illuminate San Francisco's skyline with vibrant images. From giant dancing ballerinas to the Eye of Sauron, you can expect to see a number of animations atop the tallest building in San Francisco.

Art Deco Brilliance at 140 New Montgomery 

The gorgeously restored and strikingly illuminated Pacific Telegraph & Telephone Building at 140 New Montgomery St., one of only a few large Art Deco buildings in San Francisco, is now Yelp’s headquarters. The 26-story tower has an "L" shaped floor plan and the architecture decoratively incorporates spotlights to light the outside of the building. Even details like the lobby chandeliers are old and new at once — carefully restored but also rewired to hold discreetly powerful LED lights that do away with the need for additional illumination. If you haven’t stepped inside its lobby or looked up at the towers’ details, it’s well worth your time.

Metallic Tapestry Light Show at 690 Folsom 

This repurposed parking garage looks like it's been renovated by Spiderman. The updated LED-lit facade of 690 Folsom resembles a spiderweb pulled tight around a box. The abstract metal screen draws attention to the new content inside and livens up the area. San Francisco-based Office of Charles F. Bloszies FAIA designed the aluminum sheets that envelop the second floor of the building and inserted two rows of LED lights between the original facade and the new screen, with lights that change colors according to a series of programmed scenes.

Towering Achievement at San Francisco International Airport

SFO’s new control tower ascends 221 feet skyward in a graceful flare. Completed in May 2015, the west face features a LED-backlit glass “waterfall” that reflects sunlight during the day and glows with interior lighting at night, the colors of which can be changed to celebrate important events. The tower is designed to achieve LEED Gold status by airport master architecture firm HNTB, with design partner Fentress Architects, and Hensel Phelps on the design-build team. Located between Terminals 1 and 2, the tower is seen from the freeway and upon driving into the airport. To see it close up, stand in the Pre-Security Public Corridor at the base of the tower. Look straight up through the skylight glass roof to enjoy the LED light waterfall. 

Be brilliant — shoot and share photos of these iconic San Francisco buildings or your other favorites using #illuminatesf.


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