Eight metres tall and containing 75 sets of lights, each controlled by computer, the sculpture was described by Vivant thus:
The Sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflects the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities.
The Public Art Commissions Agency has said, "The arbitrary cycle of light changes is not supposed to mimic the seasonal rhythm of nature, but the restlessness of Canary Wharf."
Traffic Light Tree was installed in 1998 on the site of a plane tree that was suffering as a result of pollution. It was initially intended that the lights would be triggered to reflect flurries of activity on the London Stock Exchange, but this proved to be too expensive to put into practice.
Although some motorists were initially confused by the traffic lights, mistaking them for real signals, the sculpture soon became a favourite among both tourists and locals. In 2005, Saga Motor Insurance commissioned a survey asking British motorists about the best and worst roundabouts in the country. The one containing Traffic Light Tree was the clear favourite.