Special lighting exhibit prepared for Salesforce Tower's 1st anniversary

The glowing and ever-changing light installation at the top of the Salesforce Tower has brought artwork to the skyline of San Francisco. 

Jim Campbell is the lighting artist who oversees the tower's art installation.

"I still call it the big experiment in the sky," said Campbell.

In his San Francisco studio, he is working on rolling out a new look leading up to the building's first anniversary on May 22nd. Partnering with the California College of the Arts, he has selected four graduate students to create their own original light displays for the tower to be shown May 18-20 from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. every night.

"One of the things that's exciting for me is their work looks nothing like mine, so I think that will also be very exciting for the city to see other images up there," said Campbell.

The students have been working with Campbell on this technological challenge, transforming their artwork into a  projection that will wrap 360 degrees around the building. There are thousands of pixels forming a low res image on top of the high tech structure.

Maxine Schoefer-Wulf is an MFA student at the California College of the Arts who was selected to create an art display.

"It's called counting moons and I basically used 16 mm film so they are these tiny, tiny film frames," said Schoefer-Wulf, who says she used hole punches in film to project an image of a full moon that will circle the building.

"I was thinking about the moon cycle and how it appears every 29 days," said Schoefer-Wulf, "I was thinking of something small and manmade like a hole punch become a large circle." 

Another MFA student, Efe Ozmen was inspired by San Francisco tech culture adding a twist of humor to his art display.

"With some glitches, you see it turns into this error screen which is kind of an adaptation of a blue screen, like a blue screen of death you see on a computer when it crashes," said Ozmen.

The art is made up of thousands of pixels that project light inwards toward the building creating a diffuse soft light.

We got a rare tour inside the tower up on the 62nd floor. The outer framework of lights rises more than four stories higher, creating what Campbell calls a cathedral of light.

The building developer Boston Properties created it as part of San Francisco's mandate that public buildings include public art.

"It needs to work in different ways and I would say that's been the biggest challenge. Most people see it for five seconds when they're walking between buildings but some people live with it every day because its outside their living room window," said Campbell.

Campbell calls it a work in progress that he says has forced him and the community to think about what goes up on the city's tallest tower. 

'We're going to have a camera on top of the Cliff House that will take images of the ocean. From the beginning I thought it was important to be abstract and not be a bulletin board," said Campbell, who adds they are adding another camera at the Exploratorium to record images of the Bay. 

Campbell says he's already thinking of his next project, to string lights inside and illuminate the interior of the building.