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3.7
22 votes

The Wave Organ

1 Yacht Road, San Francisco, California 94123 USA

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  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair
    Accessible

“wave activated acoustics”

The Wave Organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture located on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay. The concept was developed by Peter Richards and was installed in collaboration with sculptor and master stone mason George Gonzales. Inspiration for the piece came from artist Bill Fontana’s recordings made of sounds emanating from a vent pipe of a floating concrete dock in Sydney, Australia. In 1980, Richards (a Senior Artist at the Exploratorium for many years) received a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that enabled him to conduct an extensive period of investigation into the physicality of the Wave Organ phenomenon.A prototype, built at the same location, was presented as part of the New Music ’81 Festival. Though very rudimentary in nature, it generated enthusiasm and support for a permanent work. Permit acquisition and fundraising efforts by Frank Oppenheimer, Founding Director of the Exploratorium, began soon after, but actual construction did not start until September 1985, seven months after Oppenheimer’s death. The Wave Organ was completed in May 1986 and was dedicated in June to the memory of Frank Oppenheimer. The Wave Organ is located on a jetty that forms the small Boat Harbor in the Marina district of San Francisco, walking distance from the Exploratorium. The jetty itself was constructed with material taken from a demolished cemetery, providing a wonderful assortment of carved granite and marble, which was used in the construction of this piece. The installation includes 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete located at various elevations within the site, allowing for the rise and fall of the tides. Sound is created by the impact of waves against the pipe ends and the subsequent movement of the water in and out of the pipes. The sound heard at the site is subtle, requiring visitors to become sensitized to its music, and at the same time to the music of the environment. The Wave Organ sounds best at high tide. 

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Reviewed by
lora.os

  • 12 Reviews
  • 15 Helpful
May 13, 2014

Make sure to visit when the tide is in the process of coming in. Otherwise, the water isn't entering the pipes to make the music.

6 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
tina.ries.96

  • 38 Reviews
  • 26 Helpful
July 21, 2014
Rated 1.0

What this website doesn't tell you is that this is part of a museum and you have to pay to get into the museum and it's quite pricey...that was disappointing.
We didn't see it because we had other things to do and didn't have time to spend in a museum to get to see this.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Natalie Akers

  • Road Warrior
  • 371 Reviews
  • 118 Helpful
May 26, 2015
Rated 3.0

I visited this place when the tide was not coming in, but it's still a guaranteed pretty place to catch some sun and meet interesting folks. If you're making the trek out there (I suggest biking) time it with the tide.

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Reviewed by
s0calflip

  • 4 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
January 11, 2015

I wasn't even able to see it. You do have to pay to get into the Exploratorium. I was dissappointed.

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Reviewed by
Meanstinejellybean

  • 3 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
October 31, 2014
Rated 4.0

This is one of my favorite places to visit in SF, although I haven't been in about 3 years. When I went, it was free & I wasn't aware of it being a part of any museum. It's off on it's own, and it's best to get there early in the am - you'll have the place to yourself. Once there, it's really peaceful. If you're already in the area, I recommend it!

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The Wave Organ

1 Yacht Road
San Francisco, California
94123 USA

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  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Street Parking
  • Free Parking
  • Yes Parking

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