The Purple People Bridge: Lighting a New Path


Rich with history, the Purple People Bridge first opened as the Newport Southbank Bridge on April 1, 1872. It was the first railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Since 2001, it has served as a pedestrian bridge and connected the people of the region through the many events and day-to-day engagements that occur on the bridge. Today, there is an opportunity to connect locals and tourists with this national historic landmark in a deeper way by turning the 150-year-old bridge into a public art canvas.

Last painted 20 years ago, the bridge’s bold purple color has since faded to gray and is in dire need of a facelift. With the planned painting of the bridge comes the opportunity to light the bridge in a dynamic way. KLH’s proposed lighting design would illuminate the outward face of the steel structure of the bridge, as well as the bridge piers, with programmable color changing LED lighting. Each evening the public would be treated to multiple dynamic light shows that are choreographed to music. Whether viewing the bridge from Newport on the Levee, Devou Park, or from any of the many vantage points throughout the Ohio River Valley, onlookers would enjoy the music of the light show via a mobile device app.

Initially, there would be several signature light shows taking place every evening. However, a library of shows could be created by members of the general public over time. The basic framework of the lighting system could be made public so as to create a blank art canvas for anyone to design and program their own light show set to music. As the library of available shows grows, the art canvas becomes ubiquitous as each evening. In addition to the few signature shows, the general public could vote via the app to determine which shows from the library get activated.

Watch a video of the proposed lighting design below (video includes sound):


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