The Auckland Harbour Bridge connects the city and people of Tamaki Makaurau.

And the iconic landmark is about to be turned into a brilliant "artwork" illuminating the vibrancy and power of the city's richly diverse cultures.

Next Saturday - during Auckland Anniversary weekend - the bridge will be lit up in dazzling style by 90,000 LED lights and 200 floodlights.

The "redressing" of the 58-year-old coathanger-style structure will begin with the launch of Vector Lights – a six-minute specially-composed opening show sequence featuring original music and spectacular lighting effects.


The solar energy-powered show – which references Tama-Nui te Ra (the sun), Hikohiko (electrical energy), and Hei te Ao Marama (the future world of light) - will start at 9pm and repeat every half hour until midnight, with an ambient light display in between.

Creative director Jonny Kofoed says the audio-visual performance has three chapters.

"The first is the sun, the original source of energy. The second is taking that and re-presenting it as energy and technology.

"The third section is an acknowledgment that there's diversity of culture in Auckland. So it's like a cultural exchange animation."

Imagery paying tribute to those cultures will include reference to tukutuku panelling, a traditional latticework used by Maori to decorate meeting houses.

The form of the beautifully practical panelling would complement the "utilitarian structure of the bridge", the "beauty within" of which would be brought out in the show.

A number of the animation moves in the "audio-visual experience" will also match sounds of Auckland's cultures, including Polynesian drumming.

Musician Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper composed the music for the show, which can be synched via smartphone or radio. It will also be streamed online at


The eight-lane, 58-year-old motorway bridge would be turned into "a public art piece" by Vector Lights, says Kofoed, a partner in Auckland production-animation company Assembly.

"The bridge is such a functional thing… it's just designed to keep cars out of the water. [But] when you give it a new form, with colour, movement, and you basically can almost redefine what the bridge looks like - as a designer, it's pretty exciting."

The show is aimed at all ages. "Children have to love it as well, it has to be playful in parts.

"Some beautiful animation on it, really expressive and lots of dynamics. Light and dark."

Still designs will be shown in between the six-minute shows, "which makes it a lot easier for people to get photos".

People are being encouraged to move around various viewing spaces in the city to enjoy the show: "Because the bridge can be viewed from so many different angles, you get quite different experiences depending on where you are."

The 90,000 LED lights can be individually programmed allowing for an almost infinite array of designs and effects. A computer modelling system had been used to visualise how the show would look, even allowing for moving water reflections and different weather conditions. "You can't just create a piece of animation and then just run it on the bridge."

Lighting tests have been carried out late at night over the holiday period.

And just as the Sky Tower shows its colours in support of various events throughout the year, the bridge will be programmed to celebrate special occasions, including Waitangi Weekend and Auckland Pride in February, and the Auckland Lantern Festival in March.

The project is part of a 10-year energy efficiency partnership between power company Vector and Auckland Council.

It is believed to be the first major bridge in the world to have all its lighting coming entirely from solar power, from 630 panels installed on top of North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff has seen a preview of Vector Lights. "I thought it was really great."

"The harbour bridge is an iconic part of Auckland anyway but to have it lit up in a special way - is going to make the whole city more vibrant and more interesting, both to those of us that live in the city and to visitors to the city.

"I think Aucklanders will like it. They'll like it because of the vibrancy and the excitement of it. They'll like it because the equivalent energy that's being used by the lights is being generated by solar energy, so it's a bit of a statement to the world that we're committed to sustainability."

Goff says it is great that the show acknowleges the diversity of culture in the city.

"Forty per cent of us as Aucklanders were born in a country other than New Zealand.

"I think we've got a hell of a lot to celebrate in Auckland. We've got diverse communities. Over 180 different ethnicities.

"That richness of diversity and what diverse cultures can bring and the talent and the interest that they bring, is part of being an Aucklander. So let's celebrate it, and [lighting up] the harbour bridge is one way of doing that."

Having a permanent lighting display on the bridge will also be a first for the NZ Transport Agency, which manages the bridge infrastructure.

Bridge show

• Auckland harbour Bridge to be transformed into art through music and solar lights

• Next Saturday, January 27, and for other special occasions

• The world first is to relfect the vibrancy of Auckland's diversity