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Photo: SF Planning Commission

Jim Campbell, the San Francisco-based art installation guru whose LED light work has been shown at The Smithsonian, the MoMA and the Whitney, has been chosen to decorate the tip-top of the newly minted Salesforce Tower. Reportedly, it will be a nine-story light sculpture with 11,000 LEDs that, each night, will reflect images from various points in the city — a beautifully simple concept and ambitiously technical.

Campbell plans to place multiple cameras around the city to record images throughout the day. At night, those images will be projected onto the surface of the Tower by way of reflected light, creating a “soft and continuous image instead of a harsh direct image like a Times Square video screen.”

Recorded imagery from a dance company will also filter through as a way of telling time. When the Tower is engulfed in clouds or fog, “a simple soft circle of light will rotate around the crown suggesting the emotionally resonant presence of a lighthouse beacon.”

Campbell’s specific wording regarding the project is wondrously mysterious, much like the supposed soul of San Francisco itself. “The artwork manifests a poetic presence in both form and content that is inseparable from the gestalt of the building which is inseparable from the city.”

Examples of his wildly imaginative and innovative work include the ICC Building in Hong Kong, where lit up figures “swim” up and down the skyscraper, and the iridescent “Swirl” installation in Des Moines, Idaho.  

The project has been allocated $3,362,000, or 1 percent of the construction cost of the building. Campbell will also be responsible for a companion piece in the public plaza. It will reflect the artwork displayed on the Tower, and will be a much simpler, rectangular low-resolution display.

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Photo: SF Planning Commission

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