Sonic Runway Unveiling Draws Big Crowds to San Jose City Hall

Marisa Lenhardt’s spine-tingling arias soared to the top of San Jose City Hall on Friday and the street literally pulsed with energy, as hundreds attended the unveiling the Sonic Runway, an LED display created by artists Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant for the annual Burning Man festival.

The goal of the project is to inspire San Jose’s art community to create something spectacular enough to be featured at the festival.

Originating on the carefree shores of San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, Burning Man’s enduring quest of self-expression may seem like an unusual fit for San Jose. Attendees at Burning Man are generally juiced by voluntary drug use and fist-bumping raves. A scene reminiscent of Mad Max’s postapocalyptic desert world, burners are always searching for the next imaginative project. Their anything-goes culture and “10 Principles” demand it.

On Friday, Kerry Adams-Hapner, San Jose’s director of Cultural Affairs, deemed the light installation “the belle of the ball” at last Summer’s Burning Man at Black Rock City. She partnered with Kim Cook, Burning Man’s Art and Community Affairs director, to bring the Sonic Runway to San Jose as part of a project they call “Playa to Paseo.”

The 432-foot long corridor of 24 rapidly pulsing rings stretches the length of Santa Clara Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. The rings are lined with 277 LEDs that create unique, colorful sequences. On Friday, people walked freely through the piece and watched the rippling effects zip by at 323 meters per second.

“It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve seen downtown,” says San Jose resident Vivian Hoang. The 35-year-old fondly remembers a similar art showcase in 2006, when the ZERO1 festival graced the Rotunda’s plaza. The Sonic Runway is the one of several public art displays at City Hall right now, including fire dancers and art cars driven by mutants.

Much of the enthusiastic banter from crowds streaming in throughout the night involved the possibility of keeping the Sonic Runway permanently. For now, the art piece runs every night from 5:30pm to midnight for the remainder of the holiday season. There are also talks of upcoming fashion shows and DJ events.


  1. > Their anything-goes culture and “10 Principles” demand it.

    There’s also an unstated “Eleventh Principle”: Radical Self-Absorption

  2. I have to laugh.

    “Radical Self-reliance”

    You can buy the stupid LED strings and controller on Amazon for twenty bucks.

    Radical self-reliance on commodity electronics immediately available form the Amazon community!

  3. I think there’s a bigger art piece here. The opulence and decadence of city hall adorned in tech-bro discolights, a testament to mans understanding of advanced trig and calculus (mainly fast Fourier transforms) starkly contrasting against a background of homeless, a problem by in large we still haven’t been able to figure out.

    Maybe they can hire SCPD to scare the homeless off.

  4. San Jose is the only city of a million people where hundreds is considered “big crowds.”

  5. Sonic Runway was a small and unconvincing event. Modest crowds didn’t know what else they were waiting for. An artist singer performed the opening after city officials and SJ mayor Liccardo (with great spirt-wearing a leopard print cigar jacket) mentions to cheerful community. Not really a pleasing LED display.

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