It was announced on the weekend that the Harbour Bridge is to be permanently lit up with coloured lighting

An impression of what the bridge lighting could look like

The Auckland Harbour Bridge will soon have permanent coloured lighting which – in a world first – will be powered by solar energy and battery, and can be transformed into special event lighting displays.

As part of the multimillion dollar energy efficiency partnership between Vector and Auckland Council, the iconic landmark will be the first bridge in the world to have all its lighting – operational, structural and special event – able to be powered entirely by solar-stored energy. The LED lights will be individually controlled, capable of transforming the bridge with lighting shows for special events and occasions.

Six hundred and thirty solar panels and one gigantic energy storage battery, producing enough energy for 200 homes, will power the bridge lights, and the energy system will also be able to supply power for use in Wynyard Quarter.

Lighting the bridge with energy efficient LED lights and sustainable energy generation represents the next phase of a ten-year partnership between Vector and Auckland Council.  Together, they are already promoting the use of energy efficient technology in homes and schools via a community programme in Auckland’s southern suburbs.

And here’s a short video of what it could look like when finished

I think this is good. Many bridges around the world are lit up to help enhance their landmark status. It also adds to the likes of the Skytower and Lightpath – which can be seen from the bridge – in adding some colour to the city at night. It is of course not the first time it’s been lit up as was done temporarily a few years ago as part of a promotion by 2Degrees. What is different this time is that both sides of the bridge will be lit up and it appears the whole bridge will be, not just the central span and the spans either side of it.

Another impression of what the new bridge lighting could look like

While this should look great at night, it also raises a post we published back in 2012 and what we could do to make the bridge look better during the day too by painting it something other than boring grey.

I understand that the paint is there mostly for protective reasons rather than aesthetics, but my question is why can’t we have both? The way I figure it an appropriate industrial coating in some colour other than grey must be much the same cost and much the same to apply. After all, structures across the world are painted various colours just fine.

For example, the Eiffel Tower in Paris is a temporary structure made of iron and is 119 years old, but the French manage to change the paint colour periodically and still protect their historic monument. Every seven years they hold a public vote on what colour to go next. Obviously they stick to appropriate ‘monumental’ colours and avoid the pastels and neons, but it’s had a surprising number of variations from reddish brown through copper and mustard to the current chocolatey brown.

A selection of colours the Eiffel Tower has been painted in the past, with the current colour behind.

There are plenty of options for colour and we could likewise hold a vote. I like the idea of metallic bronzes or coppers, but things like green (think Statue of Liberty) or red (Golden Gate Bridge) might work too! So can’t we just pick a colour and use it instead of grey next time?

Interestingly in the post we suggested that a feature lighting system would also be a good idea. And here was one colour scheme suggested.

A version with bright copper

So how about it, let’s add a dash of colour to the old coat-hanger to give it some life during the day too.

Oh, and I hope the lighting scheme has been designed with Skypath in mind too.

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47 comments

  1. Great, lots of solar energy/battery power LEDs. Perhaps there will be enough of them to make a moving display. My first suggestion would be a moving emu graphic crossing the bridge so that we can be reminded what could have been if the original proposal for the bridge hadn’t been cheapskated from a 5 lane road, 2 rail line, 2 pedestrian footpath bridge to the miserable congested failure it is now.
    More pitiful is the same cheap skating attitude that raises its head with the CRL, Newton station removed, the best pedestrian exit/entrance for K road also deleted, station platforms designed for just 6 car trains. Worse we see this blog complaining about and questioning control of costs for the CRL when the answer should be it costs what it costs, let’s get on with it instead of encouraging bean counters to try and cheap skate.

    1. There were never rail lines proposed for the harbour bridge. More traffic lanes and footpaths yes, they got cut back. But rail was never considered.

        1. Wikipedia isn’t often accurate, especially about this sort of stuff. From memory, there was originally a bridge proposed with rail but it was a low level bridge not far above the waterline. The bridge we have today is as high as it is as the plan at the time was to build a new port further up the harbour so needed to allow ships through – also the reason the SH16 motorway was originally built. The current bridge design never had rails included

          1. Agreed there Matt re Wikipadia but it was something that keeps getting mentioned so you would think there is some truth to it. I also agree that there is no way rail would have been possible on the final design due to the gradient.

        2. He’s not even correct, and Wikipedia is perfectly accurate that no rail lines were proposed, or removed:
          “The recommendations of the design team and the report of the 1946 Royal Commission were for five or six traffic lanes, with one or two of them to be reversed in direction depending on the flow of traffic, and with a footpath for pedestrians on each side. The latter features were dropped for cost reasons before construction started, the First National Government of New Zealand opting for an ‘austerity’ design of four lanes without footpaths…”

          No rail lines considered or mentioned, for the simple fact that a rail capable bridge would have been three times longer.

          1. Nick read under ‘Original proposal’ “When the bridge was built, rail lines and walking and cycling paths were dropped for cost reasons,and neither were they included during the clip-on construction”

            As per my reply to Matt above, I agreed there is no way rail could have been included in the final design due to the gradient chosen.

  2. So putting pretty christmas lights on the bridge goes without a major battle, but creating a path to be actually useful is a upstream battle? Shame it is. Don’t get me wrong I like the pretty lights, and I think they’ll make our city more beautiful – but why oh why is Skypath on the backburner!!!? Also, I was reading that reprogramming the lighting would cost $5000 every time. I wonder if they could create an open standard so that anyone with the skills could write a code – that would be much more creative and community based approach…

    1. I think that the reprogramming cost is an inflated one so as to avoid sticker shock when it’s in place. SW engineers only cost $750-2000/day (source: quora.com). I think the price listed was a nice easy number, there to provide confidence in the plan even if they’ve no idea yet how the sign would work on a technical level.

      In response to making an open standard, standards are great – so many to choose from 😉

      The question is, will the council etc do the right thing and spend more up-front so that the punter can supply an MP4 (or whatever) and the operator runs a conversion app to convert to the signs format? The other option is to skimp on the business analyst and let an engineer do too much of the design, in which case the UX isn’t likely to be a prime concern.

      Yeah – They should make it easy for people to create works for the sign. MP4 (or whatever) in, sign out. I know from my own interest in making something similar (though admittedly *much* smaller in scale) that there’s a lot of Open Source and Creative Commons material out there to base the product on, in some cases on very permissive licensing.

      1. you don’t need any special software. Any theatre technician can make whatever he wants if it’s designed with that capability in mind. Using a dmx protocol and an appropriate lighting desk you can just input a image or video file and do whatever you want in a couple of hours. 500$ max

        1. However DMX only supports 512 channels per universe, maximum of 32 units per bus (including controller) and communicates no faster than 250 kbit/s. That’s going to result in some pretty chunky and clunky lighting…

          As an embedded system design engineer (and 20+ years in IT), I’d never suggest DMX. IP is the way to go, a /8 network would give you 16,777,214 usable IP addresses. Even a more reasonable /16 gives 65,534 usable addresses – And that’s ignoring VLANs…

          Write a back end, write a front end, get an “operator” to “program” the unit via a conversion utility. Most simple way to do things.

  3. This is amazing, and it needs to go ahead.

    LEDs are the technology that has made this possible, from a cost, control, and maintenance perspective. This simply wouldn’t have made sense with conventional lighting.

    I hope they also put a spotlight on the flags above. It seems a bit silly to have them sitting in darkness.

      1. On the downside, generally, more wasteful lighting despoiling the night sky for those who prefer to look at stars. Need to make sure they point down only and don’t uplight into the atmosphere.

        1. Can’t see many stars in the Auckland night sky anyway so I doubt lighting the bridge would make much difference. There are plenty of places in NZ to go and look at stars.

      2. Large structures have been lit for decades, though some have been out of reach for technical reasons.

        New Zealand has been blessed with an absolute abundance of clean low-cost energy sources, and it’s a pity that this comparative advantage has not been recognised. But that’s the subject of another post on another day.

    1. Because the NZTA wouldn’t do it, obviously. This adds significantly to Auckland and will elevate the city internationally.

  4. “Six hundred and thirty solar panels and one gigantic energy storage battery, producing enough energy for 200 homes, will power the bridge lights, and the energy system will also be able to supply power for use in Wynyard Quarter.”

    So, we could power 200 beneficiaries’ homes for them instead.

    Eat the rich.

    1. Because poor people won’t be allowed to look at this, right?

      Jeeze there are a lot of neighsayers here today.

  5. Awkland… will they ever build the sky path? Glad I don’t live on the shore, feel sorry for how much weight that tiny prehistoric bridge has to deal with each day.

  6. The paint must be coated with water sliding, anti rust, anti mould and uv heat durable properies.

    I saw too much cheap constructions that eventually becoming rusty, mouldy and full of dirt.

    1. Yeah, I never did understand why they were upset. I’d have thought that the better connection with the city would do wonders for increasing their property values. Yet they seemed unwilling to consider that, fixating on “all the undesirables who will be in the area, at all times of day and night”. Though uncharitable to say so, I did wonder what colour the sky was on their planet 🙂

  7. I often come on here and talk about the culture of waste at Auckland Council.

    Well voila here is a prime example of unnecessary and wasteful expenditure. $10 million dollars to light up a fricken bridge. You have to be kidding! The question was asked on here a few days ago about the $400mil ATAP funding gap. Well, I’ve found $10 million of it.

    Auckland is experiencing record congestion, can’t get an apartment block built and is becoming a worse place to live by the day and our council decides to spend $10 mil on lighting up a bridge.

    In the words on John McEnroe “You can’t be serious”

    1. From the article:

      “Vector, which is contributing multi-millions of dollars to the project, will meet the bulk of the costs in operating and maintaining the new lights while Auckland Council will fund digital programming of the lights, special events activations and promotion. The council will also explore the possibility of commercial arrangements over time to further enhance the support of existing and new lighting projects and events.”

      Is it just me, or does that last line mean we could witness huge Coca-Cola lights across the bridge a-la Times Square?

      1. The bridge has already had advertising across it – 2Degrees original light show 🙂

        I don’t think that we need to worry about big Coke signage on the bridge – there’s a lot of empty space in the structure, so good luck with recognisable images.

    2. I think you’ll find this gets reasonably widespread support (except possibly from the NRA), so you might need to look somewhere else to drum up some support for your cause.

      Hint: Ateed is a goldmine, although that’s not exactly a secret.

  8. In the past Vector’s predecessor (AEPB / Mercury) had an active lines undergrounding program. In recent years this appears to have diminished with more spending on dividends and ‘glam’ projects.
    The lighting of the bridge will no doubt be impressive but so would the distributed advantages of an enhanced undergrounding program.
    Some of the advantages of the removal of overhead lines are: No power poles in road edges /cycleways / footpaths, reduction of outages due to overhead damage and the end of hacking of trees to allow wires to pass.

  9. In regards to the “I hope the lighting scheme has been designed with Skypath in mind too” comment, I have contacted Vector about this and they had this to say:

    Skypath is an entirely separate project and one will not negatively impact the other. In fact, we believe the lighting of the bridge will complement and enhance the Skypath, and vice versa.

    So there’s your answer, albeit a somewhat vague one.

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