5 Publicly-Accessible Artworks That Inspire and Connect
Public art in San Francisco is not only an exploration of public expression, but also an ideal that San Francisco is deeply rooted in — helping to make creativity and social curiosity accessible to everyone. If you don’t have time to experience the Exploratorium itself or one of the city’s other striking museums, you can still enjoy artwork by visiting one of the Exploratorium’s inspiring free outdoor public art exhibits at Pier 15/17 and throughout San Francisco.
Anamorphic Bench (Pier 15 Plaza, The Embarcadero)
Installed in 2013, the Anamorphic Bench, a cylindrical mirror paired with a curved bench takes a Renaissance-era illusion into the third dimension. This playful installation encourages spirited interactions among users, bringing people together both visually and socially as they explore the unexpected effects of the pair.
Buckyball (Pier 15 Plaza, The Embarcadero)
Buckyball is a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture that features two nested, geodesic spheres by New York-based light artist Leo Villareal, celebrated in San Francisco for his monumental public sculpture on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, The Bay Lights as well as others across the city. An invitation to open-ended discovery, the light sculpture is comprised of 4,500 LED nodes along a series of pentagons and hexagons and displays more than 16 million distinct colors using custom software programmed by Villareal. Buckyball will be on display through February 25, 2018.
Wave Organ (Boat Harbor in the Marina District)
Constructed in 1986 by Peter Richards and George Gonzalez, Exploratorium artists in residence, The Wave Organ is an acoustic wave-activated sculpture built on a jetty that forms the small Boat Harbor in the Marina District of San Francisco Bay. Constructed of 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete located at various elevations within the site, allowing for the rise and fall of the tides, the subtle music of the pipes defines the Wave Organ phenomenon. The Wave Organ sounds best at high tide.
Whispering Dishes (Yerba Buena Lane and Market Street)
First launched in 2013, Whispering Dishes was the first exhibit in a series titled Living Innovation Zones, and is a partnership between the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD). It features two 8-foot-tall dishes facing each other on the sidewalk 50 feet apart. These proclaimed science and technology innovations focus sound in such a way that two people whispering across the 50-foot distance are able to hear each other even with surrounding street noise.
Golden Gate Bridge Exhibits (South End of Golden Gate Bridge)
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in 2012, the Exploratorium installed a collection of two permanent, interactive exhibits focused on the design and engineering of the illustrious bridge. Along with the Exploratorium, the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE) created the display, which sits just between the new Visitor’s Center and the pedestrian entrance to the bridge, to educate the 10 million visitors a year from around the world.
This 1:500 scale model displays vibration patterns inherent in a suspension bridge design and emulates the bridge’s actual flexibility through life-like bouncing, swaying, wiggling and twisting motions. Visitors from near and far are able to experiment with different modes of vibration and see how this dynamic structure responds to powerful forces like wind and even earthquakes.
This exhibit lets users investigate two major aspects that Golden Gate Bridge engineers had to factor into their design of the bridge: tower height and cable tension. Here, three model bridges with three different-sized towers enable visitors to experience the factors first–hand with interactive displays allowing visitors to pull on ropes attached to the bridge cables, illustrating how drastically cable tensions differ with tower height.
The Exploratorium believes strongly in investing in a vibrant arts community and enlivening the urban environment and will continue to do so with partners throughout the city for years to come.