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'Light Gate' Sunset Tradition Continues in Manhattan Beach

Nov 14, 2022 06:22PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

A crowd gathers in anticipation of the Light Gate sunset on November 14, 2022 in Manhattan Beach.

What unique Manhattan Beach tradition draws crowds on one afternoon in November and January each year? You guessed it: the Light Gate sunset outside Manhattan Beach City Hall.

The Light Gate sculpture, installed in 2015, has a "keyhole" opening that looks straight down 14th Street. Each year, on November 14 and January 27, the sun sets perfectly through the keyhole, drawing crowds for photo opportunities.

On Monday, November 14, a group of about 50 photographers and sunset enthusiasts gathered to take photos and simply admire the view. Most were local neighbors but some had come from a distance to enjoy the twice-per-year event.

Elizabeth Ocampo of Norwalk posed in front of the sculpture with a bouquet of flowers that her father had given her for her birthday. They both work in the neighborhood, she said, and he had urged her to come down and view the sunset. "It's so cool - I just love it," said Ocampo. "It was the perfect sunset."

Manhattan Beach City Councilmember Joe Franklin, who attended Monday's sunset with City Manager Bruce Moe, shared another "iconic" view of the sunset - with his 1955 Ford Thunderbird framed in the center of the keyhole. That photo was taken at the last sunset, January 27, 2022, by Starr Eisler, with her son Hawk in the foreground. 

Joe Franklin and his 1955 Ford Thunderbird. Photo credit: Starr Eissler.

Light Gate Commissioned in Honor of Centennial

The idea for the sculpture dates back to 2012, when the city sought to install a landmark art piece to commemorate its 100th anniversary. 

A call went out for proposals and the city received more than 150 submissions.

"Light Gate" artists Mags Harries and Lajos Heder in 2015 in front of the sculpture as originally created (before the colored glass was installed.)


Artists Mags Harries and Lajos Héder of Harries and Héder Collective were chosen as the artists to create their submission, Light Gate.

In their original description, the artists wrote, "The glass and steel construction, playing with the sunlight, will harmonize with the crystalline glass architecture of the new library."

The artists' commission for the project was $130,000, with funding from the City’s Public Art Trust Fund. The Public Art Trust Fund was established through a dedicated 1% development fee that does not impact the general fund.

Sculpture Updated with New Colorful Glass

The Light Gate sculpture originally had fused glass embedded with a film that was designed to create a prism-like refraction when hit by sunlight. However, given that there had been some fading - as well as new innovations in glass products - the city and the artists agreed to work on a "refresh" of the project.

In 2019, the city replaced five glass panels with a new decorative glass product that exhibits a brilliant color shift through transmitted and reflected light.

The glass product - called “Dichroic Laminated Glass” - is produced in Canada and is the result of a partnership between Goldray Glass, a manufacturer of architectural decorative glass, and 3M Innovation, which created premium-grade polymeric film.

The sculpture is fun for taking pictures any time of the year. In fact, a photo op sponsored by the Manhattan Beach Library back in June offered colorful family portraits in front of the sculpture. , However, if you want to see the "perfect" sunset again, mark your calendars for January 27, 2023. 

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