Pittsburgh Art Places


Rachel Carson Bridge

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Polli, Bridge, Wind, LED

Artwork Type

Architecture, Integrated, Light, Temporary

Energy Flow, 2016

Andrea Polli


Commissioning Entity Bridge Lighting Committee of the Bicentennial Commission
Owner City of Pittsburgh

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) author of the groundbreaking book Silent Spring, scientist, and advocate for educating the public on the importance of sustainability, graduated from the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) in 1929. Born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, Carson's connection to Pittsburgh is memorialized by the 9th Street Bridge, which was renamed the Rachel Carson Bridge on Earth Day in 2006. 

The Rachel Carson Bridge is one of three iconic, yellow suspension bridges that stretch across the Allegheny River, and a perfect location for artist Andrea Polli's work Energy Flow. Polli's "dream" of creating a light-based work for a bridge began while she was living in New York City. Polli passed the Queensboro Bridge daily, and was inspired to design a light-based artwork powered by wind. At the time, the “necklace lights” on the Queensboro and New York City’s three other East River bridges were shut off due to budgetary constraints; Polli’s idea to help relight the Queensboro Bridge was never approved. 

In 2016, Pittsburgh celebrated its bicentennial, which included a national call-for-artists to create an installation piece for the Rachel Carson Bridge. Commissioned by the Bridge Lighting Committee of the Bicentennial Commission, Polli won the competition and was able to carry out her idea for lighting a bridge using wind. 

Polli partnered with Pittsburgh-based Windstax to create 16 vertical axis wind turbines that include micro-grids. The micro-grids are responsible for storing the work’s potential wind energy, and managing Energy Flow’s power system and consumption. The idea is that the power generated by the wind will light the 27,000 multi-colored LED lights that roughly outline the bridge's two main supports and numerous cables. If at any time there is not enough wind to generate power, Energy Flow is backed by electricity. The installation includes a weather station and nanogrid that continuously collects environmental data. 

On a bridge so old and synonymous with Pittsburgh, Energy Flow highlights the region’s industrial past and celebrates the city’s ability to adapt and become a leader in technology and innovation. 

By Rachel Klipa, Office of Public Art


Andrea Polli is an environmental artist working at the intersection of art, science and technology.  Her interdisciplinary research has been presented as public artworks, media installations, community projects, performances, broadcasts, mobile and geolocative media, publications, and through the curation and organization of public exhibitions and events.  She creates artworks designed to raise awareness of environmental issues.  Often these works express scientific data obtained through her collaborations with scientists and engineers and have taken the form of sound art, vehicle-based works, public light works, mobile media experiences, and bio-art and design.  Polli holds an MFA in Time Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a PhD in practice-led research from the University of Plymouth in the UK.--Text taken from https://sites.google.com/andreapolli.com/main/. 

Andrea Polli, Professor of Art & Ecology, the University of New Mexico

Chris Clavio, ClaviOn Unlimited ,LED Infrastructure and Hardware Design

Eric Geusz, The Social Media Workgroup, Programming and Design

Jared Rendon Trompak  The Social Media Workgroup, Technical Assistance

With additional support from The UNM Mesa Del Sol Endowment, the Compton Foundation and the Carnegie Institute for Carnegie Museum of Art