“Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons”, Nightly Illuminations on San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers

November 14, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers will celebrate the natural wonders of Winter with “Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons”, nightly artistic illuminations of the Conservatory’s façade from December 7, 2017 through May of 2018. Following on this summer’s “Photosynthesis: Summer of Love”, the colorful Conservatory illuminations that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, this program completes the cycle, transforming the iconic building into an elegant illuminated canvas of Fall, Winter and Spring scenes nightly through May.

“Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons” Ice Palace artist’s rendering

Developed in partnership with San Francisco Recreation and Parks, the light art installation, initiated by Ben Davis of Illuminate, the nonprofit arts group behind The Bay Lights, together with Obscura Digital, a world-renowned creative studio specializing in large scale light-based art, uses gobo projectors to transform the all-white landmark with a series of exquisite scenes inspired by the rare tropical flowers within and the magic of nature’s regenerative force.

“The ‘Photosynthesis: Summer of Love’ project was an amazing crowd-pleaser, and we’re excited to be taking it to the next artistic level with this incarnation,” said Illuminate founder Ben Davis. “We’ve worked closely with the Obscura team to create intricate, gorgeous scenes demonstrating the miraculous regenerative life cycle that occurs in nature during Fall, through Winter, and into the Spring.”

The grand unveiling of this stunning illumination will be part of The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s free special event, “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” that will take place on Thursday, December 7, 2017. It starts with the City’s 88th Holiday Tree lighting ceremony, scheduled to start at 4:00pm at John McLaren Lodge at the east entrance of Golden Gate Park, with the official Tree Lighting at 6:00pm. The Conservatory will be lit up with these new illuminations at 7pm, which will be preceded by live performances.

The free public installation will be on view nightly from 30 minutes past sundown until midnight from December 7, 2017 through May 2018.

“The Conservatory of Flowers is such a stunning building, and this illumination is a special gift for both San Francisco’s citizens and visitors alike,” said San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department general manager Phil Ginsberg. “Obscura and Illuminate took pains to design the ‘Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons’ program to appeal especially to families and children, and we believe it will be as popular as the Summer of Love program, if not more so.”

The Technology Behind the Illumination

Gobo projectors, chosen for their ability to withstand the rigors of a long-term installation, are one of the oldest forms of projection — akin to creating shadow puppets on a cave wall — though today’s gobos use full color. They were in heavy use during the heyday of the light show in the 1960s.

Images are printed on 23mm glass gobo lenses, and a light is shone through them to “project” on the surface. Obscura Digital had to go to extraordinary lengths to compress the large-scale work that the studio normally does with the advantage of cutting edge technologies on to static lenses that are about the size of a quarter.

To that end, Obscura Digital has pushed gobos farther than ever before by applying video projection mapping techniques to the glass slides. The Conservatory building was laser scanned to create a 3D model, on which the studio used image warping and masking to conform the images to the details of the architectural geometry. The final image printed on the gobo takes those considerations into account.

Each of the ten projectors has six gobo slots, so there are six themes made up of ten images each. These are mixed with classic built-in gobo effects like focus shift, rotation, filters, and background colors, as well as six LED floodlights to illuminate the building with a color wash.


The Conservatory of Flowers is a spectacular living museum of rare and beautiful tropical plants under glass. From Borneo to Bolivia, the 1,750 species of plants at the Conservatory represent unusual flora from more than 50 countries around the world. Immersive displays in five galleries include the lowland tropics, highland tropics, aquatic plants, potted plants, and special exhibits. Opened in 1879, the wood and glass greenhouse is the oldest existing wood and glass conservatory in North America and has attracted millions of visitors to Golden Gate Park since it first opened its doors. It is designated as a city, state and national historic landmark and was one of the 100 most endangered sites of the World Monuments Fund.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department currently manages more than 220 parks, playgrounds and open spaces throughout San Francisco, including two outside city limits—Sharp Park in Pacifica and Camp Mather in the High Sierras. The system includes full-complex recreation centers, swimming pools, golf courses, sports fields and numerous small-to-medium-sized clubhouses that offer a variety of sports- and arts-related recreation programs for people of all ages. Included in the Department’s responsibilities are Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, Palace of Fine Arts, the Marina Yacht Harbor, the San Francisco Zoo and Lake Merced.



WHAT: Conservatory of Flowers Grand Lighting – The premiere of “Photosynthesis: Love for All Seasons”, nightly illumination projections on the façade of San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers, celebrating the life cycle of Fall, Winter and Spring.
WHEN: December 7, 2017
TIME: Grand Lighting at approximately 8:00pm
WHERE: Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
INFO: www.conservatoryofflowers.org, 415-831-2090

Illuminate Contact: Ben Davis, (415) 786-4332, ben@illuminate.org
Obscura Contact: Will Chase (415) 847-6382, will.chase@obscuradigital.com

By Will Chase