Aurora Palo Alto: BM Tree Comes to City Hall

Aurora is a 3-story high art-ificial tree made up of more than 40,000 LED lights. It was created by Bay Area artist Charles Gadeken. After debuting at Burning Man in 2011, it has been re-constructed as a temporary art installation outside Palo Alto’s city hall. The project was funded by a Kickstarter project promoted by the Black Rock Arts Foundation.


Aurora is an opalescent willow with hand-beaten copper leaves that chime in the wind. At night, the tree comes alive with light, rotating through the spectrum of colors and providing spectacular illumination. It is a fairy tree that re-ignites our childhood imaginations, full of wonder and endless possibility.
The installation illuminates the area around City Hall, and invigorates the civic heart of Palo Alto. Aurora draws Palo Alto citizens, creating a welcome place for the public to gather beneath its canopy.  This piece provides branches to read under, benches to sit on, and momentarily transports viewers into a fantastical world of endless possibility. By installing this work in front of City Hall, Aurora captures Palo Alto’s distinctive social and cultural history as a thriving center for innovation, art, and technology.
Aurora runs a year-long full color light display that changes every day with the seasons. An interactive mobile app will allow the public to play with the tree, modifying the color and pattern of 40,000 LED lights that bring the tree to life and making it an ever-changing, collaborative work of public art.
Sam-Julia-Aurora-328x440The idea to re-assemble the tree for public display came from two young kids who saw photos of it from Burning Man:

The initiative to display Aurora in Palo Alto began with local residents Sam and Julia Hirschman (ages 10 and 8) who have been working on the project for over a year.  With the support of their Father, Harry, they have engaged local civic and business organizations to support the project as well as gathering petitions to support the project. They have secured the support of the Palo Alto Art Commission and the Palo Alto Business Association.

The artist described the project as a magical wardrobe/secret clubhouse:

With this piece, I am creating an environment of mythical beauty that instills a sense of awe, wonder and joy to those who experience it. It acts as a unique and unexpected element placed in the world that empowers and transforms the viewer at the moment of participation. Viewers become enveloped in the magic of the experience and are taken out of the everyday. This work brings light to the darkness, making nature come alive in the desert night. This piece provides branches to read under, a forest in which to play or fight, waging a war full of knights and princesses, a fairy tree to re-ignite our childhood imaginations, full of wonder and endless possibility.

This tree represents the secret clubhouse, the magical wardrobe, the portal from a practical reality into a real life fairy tale. It is the barrier between waking and dreaming. The tree enacts a time outside of time, and a place outside of place. It is a universe all your own, that responds to your presence and an alternate reality that connects and inspires all of us to play.

Here’s the CBS Local story on the project.

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