Light Gate – Manhattan Beach, California - Atlas Obscura

Light Gate

Manhattan Beach, California

The sun acts as a key that only fits this giant keyhole twice a year. 


Looking out over the Pacific Ocean in sunny Manhattan Beach, California, the lovely Light Gate is a tall piece of public art that is positioned so that the keyhole portal is “unlocked” twice a year by the rays of the sun.

In 2012, the city of Manhattan Beach celebrated its centennial by commissioning a large public installation. The piece they chose was “Light Gate” by artists Mags Harries and Lajos Héder, after looking at the works of 160 candidates in 2012. The work was finally finished and dedicated in 2015, unveiled in front of the Manhattan Beach City Hall, and living up to every promise the artists made.

The work consists of a 15-foot-tall glass disc held in a metal frame. The glass is covered in a prismatic film that reflects the copious amounts of sunlight the seaside city gets. In the base of the disk is a keyhole-shaped portal big enough for an adult human to walk through. The reflective film that covers the glass breaks the light into a rainbow of colors that play across the surface of the installation each day. However the truly spectacular moments at the Light Gate only occur twice a year on January 27th and November 14th. Its on these dates that the setting sun shines right through the hole like a cosmic key.

With its use of celestial orientation and its evocative portal, the Light Gate seems to not unlike a bit of druidic paganism by way of high modern design.  

Know Before You Go

Located on Highland between City Hall and the library

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