Enlightening History of Lights on Edmonton’s Skyline

Here’s an enlightening history of lights on the Edmonton skyline. While ATB Lights was a one time even (for now), it continues three decades of Edmonton’s experimentation with light to brighten up the city. After all, the city at latitude 53 does get up to 17 hours of evening darkness in the winter. Here’s an enlightening history of lights on the Edmonton skyline. Last week, Edmonton’s skyline had a unique lights show when ATB Place was lit to celebrate Alberta and the launch of ATB Financial’s Apple Pay. But who screwed in the first light bulb?

AGT Tower Christmas Lights

The first lighting of the skyline goes back almost 30 years. In 1988, the AGT Towers in Edmonton and Calgary were lit up for the first time with Christmas lights. While towers in Hong Kong changed out their decorations during Christmas and Lunar New Year, the northern climate made it a difficult and dangerous task. When the Edmonton light bulbs were changed out by Westcan, they were done in -20 weather. Since being turned on, they’ve become a beloved part of the winterscape.


After they were first lit, the lights were so unique that it affected traffic. As Barry Sloan remembers, “Within minutes we heard the screeching of tires followed shortly by more tire screeching every few minutes. It was evident that the candle flame was at least catching the attention of drivers.”

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Colours Up

After that, it was a long time before another structure was specially lit on the skyline. On November 15, 2004, Edmonton-based Illumivision lit up the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in various colours on Edmonton’s centennial year as a city. On that night, the hotel was lit magenta, blue, and purple. They’ve been lit up ever since in a warm bright glow, but changes colours on various occasions for special events.



Muttart Conservatory Illuminations

In late 2008, the glass pyramids pre-dating the Louvre were lit using roped LEDs by UK’s ElektoLED. The difference between this and the lights on the TELUS tower was that these 30,000 lights stretching 4 city blocks only used 10% of the energy than the ones put up in 1988.

You can see through the pyramids with the ElektoLED lights on Muttart Conservatory.

These light-sabre looking LEDs on the pyramids didn’t last long, as they were difficult to maintain as there was no easy way of getting up onto the pyramids and required the right weather conditions. They silently dimmed out but were replaced with indoor LEDs in 2012. The new lights allowed people to see the five pyramids lit from the inside out.


City Hall LEDs for Vancouver 2010

City Hall glows red with the rest of the nation during the Vancouver 2010 torch run.

In 2009, after years of lighting up City Hall with expensive gas-filled lights, the City of Edmonton finally switched them over to LEDs. As you see, the lights were large, hot, and you could become temporarily blind looking at them when fully lit. The LEDs were tested all though the holiday season. When the Vancouver 2010 torch run stopped at Churchill Square on January 13, 2010, Gene Dub’s gem was lit red until the torch reached Vancouver for the winter Olympics.



ATB Place

The AGT North Tower was completed in 1969. In 1971, the south tower was completed and became the tallest building in the city until Manulife Place took over in 1983. When ATB Financial became the main tenant of TELUShouse (the taller south tower) in 2013, they had one problem: having been a name on the Edmonton skyline since 1990, TELUS was not willing to have their sign replaced. However, the North tower of ATB Place had stayed untouched and ATB Financial was given the task of putting their mark on the skyline.


How do you add life into one of Edmonton’s oldest skyscrapers which is dwarfed by its taller sister? With lights of course! After adding their name, ATB added LED lights outlining the tower, to make it the shining star. The lights were lit in January 2014. Because the lights could be programmed, they were able to be more than just a bright box in the sky. From solidarity during the Paris attacks, to provincial election results, to fun social media references such as ‘the dress’ of black and blue, or white and gold, they’ve played a reflective role in the life of Edmontonians on the go.

ATB Lights Alberta Tribute & Apple Pay

Since ATB Place was lit up, many other towers in the city have received an LED illumination at night. Last week on May 17, 2016, ATB Place upped the game again with a lights show. Skyline light shows are not new, as there have been many places which has done this. In Hong Kong every evening at 8pm, both sides of the harbour’s famous skyscrapers have taken part in a laser light show which has lasted since 1997. The ATB Lights was also not the first building illuminated by moving picture, as two building facades were illuminated with projector shows show during Nuit Blanche in 2015.


Although ATB Lights was not necessarily the first to show in Edmonton, it is undeniably the largest project of its kind in the city. Here’s a video highlight reel from the show. If you’re looking for a guide, ATB has provided one here. Illuminated by 4K projectors 400 times brighter than a flashlight, the tribute to Alberta, and the launch of Apple Pay will be unforgettable. Let’s hope the ATB Lights becomes a more regular occurrence in our winter city!

High Level Bridge ‘Light The Bridge’


When city council turned the taps off the Great Divide Waterfall on the High Level Bridge, Edmonton’s love with lighting up buildings was at an all time high. There was no question that the Light The Bridge project would go ahead to take the bridge into its second century of existence.

The lights were lit up on Canada Day this year as part of the Light The Bridge project. The campaign raised $2.5 million in private funds to install 60,000 LED lights. Since July 2014, it has been lit various colours to signal events and highlight various organizations in the city. Opening on June 2, 1913, the bridge is home to the world’s highest river streetcar crossing.


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