Bridges and skyscrapers light up for the holidays

From the Gerald Desmond Bridge to the Stavros Niarchos in Athens, lights become an important architectural element

The six powerful beams of light projected from the roof of Miami’s Guitar Hotel soar more than 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) high in the sky. Part of the Hard Rock chain, the hotel’s owners are displaying these numbers to promote the nighttime light show of the huge guitar-shaped hotel, which is 450 feet (157 metres) tall, housing 638 suites on 36 floors. Beams of LED light, drawing the six strings and neck of the guitar into the sky, will light up the magical Florida city for the holiday season and New Year celebrations. It may just be the highest beam of light ever, and it is just one of the infrastructures that are celebrating the holidays this year by turning themselves into giant Christmas trees.

Spectacular lighting is becoming an increasingly important architectural feature in the construction of a bridge, a cultural center, or a subway station. In Long Beach, California, the new Gerald Desmond Bridge, built by Webuild in 2020, highlighted its importance to international and regional commerce with a festival of lights from the moment it opened. Nearly 200 LEDs were lit to illuminate the two 515-foot (157-metre) high towers and the 80 cables that support the nearly two-mile-long (3.2 km) bridge’s central span. Renamed the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, this iconic infrastructure can display 30 color combinations. The bridge celebrates all kinds of holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and sports holidays related to Los Angeles champions such as the Dodgers in baseball and the Lakers in basketball.

A tricolour celebration for Genoa's San Giorgio Bridge

From Los Angeles to Genoa, the new San Giorgio Bridge, also built by Webuild, was illuminated with the white, red and green colours of the Italian flag to celebrate its inauguration. Light systems are now an essential part of infrastructure. They are “a way to celebrate the energy of a people that expresses itself through music, knowledge, and beauty,” commented architect Renzo Piano during the “Dance of the Cranes,” the performance held in 2014 in Athens at the construction site of what would become the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, built by Webuild.

From Athens to Riyadh, where the Kingdom Centre has radically changed the skyline of Saudi Arabia’s capital city, projecting the region’s economic growth for miles around with its 300-metre-high tower topped by a 120-metre (393-foot) half-moon, always illuminated. The building, designed by Webuild and winner of the Emporis Skyscraper Award in 2002 as the world’s best skyscraper design, is now the centerpiece of the annual “Noor Riyadh” light and art festival, with an LED and laser show visible 6 km (3.7 miles) away.

Christmas lights: monuments and bridges light up for the holidays

From the UAE to the United States, China to Spain, Australia to Turkey, and France. From the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to the Empire State Building in New York, from the Shanghai Tower to the Agbar Tower in Barcelona, from the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in Sydney to the bridges over the Bosphorus and the Eiffel Tower, every skyscraper, every bridge will be festively lit.

The lighting of the Iron Lady, the Eiffel Tower, first unveiled in 1985 with 336 yellow-orange sodium spotlights integrated into the structure, has been gradually improved by reducing electricity consumption until it was completely renovated three years ago, with, among other things, the replacement of the four spotlights that had been illuminating the mast since 1985 with LEDs that consume ten times less energy. To achieve its sparkling effect, each side of the Tower was fitted with 5,000 metal casings containing a 6W xenon bulb, for a combined total of 20,000 lamps and 120kW of electricity. According to the Société de Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, which is entrusted with the management of the tower, the lights have an annual energy consumption equal to that of a 30-square-metre (322-square-foot) studio apartment with two occupants and represents 0.4% of the annual energy consumption of French monuments. In addition, to save energy for major events, the Tower’s lights since last September have been turned off at 11:45 p.m. every night. So there is room to light up for the Christmas holidays and the countdown to 2023.