Wave Organ

Last updated

The Wave Organ San Francisco Wave Organ.jpg
The Wave Organ

The Wave Organ is a sculpture constructed on the shore of San Francisco Bay in May 1986 by the Exploratorium, [1] and more specifically, by Exploratorium artist in residence Peter Richards, who conceived and designed the organ, working with sculptor and mason George Gonzales. [2]

San Francisco Bay bay on the California coast of the United States

San Francisco Bay is a shallow estuary in the US state of California. It is surrounded by a contiguous region known as the San Francisco Bay Area, and is dominated by the large cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland.

Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco

The Exploratorium is a museum in San Francisco that allows visitors to explore the world through science, art, and human perception. Its mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide. It has been described by the New York Times as the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century, an achievement attributed to "the nature of its exhibits, its wide-ranging influence and its sophisticated teacher training program". Characterized as "a mad scientist's penny arcade, a scientific funhouse, and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one", the participatory nature of its exhibits and its self-identification as a center for informal learning has led to it being cited as the prototype for participatory museums around the world.


Through a series of pipes, the Wave Organ interacts with the waves of the bay and conveys their sound to listeners at several different stations. The effects produced vary depending on the level of the tide but include rumbles, gurgles, sloshes, hisses, and other more typical wave sounds. The structure incorporates stone platforms and benches where visitors may sit near the mouths of pipes, listening.

Tide The daily, twice daily or similar rise and fall of the sea.

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth.

The Wave Organ is located at the end of a spit of land extending from the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The stone pieces used in its construction were salvaged from the demolition of the Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Yacht Club American yacht club

The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) is a San Francisco, California, USA based yacht club founded in 1939.

Lone Mountain (California) mountain in California, United States of America

Lone Mountain is a historic hill in west-central San Francisco, California and the site of the private University of San Francisco (USF) – Lone Mountain Campus, which in turn was previously the San Francisco Lone Mountain College for Women. It was once the location of Lone Mountain Cemetery, a complex encompassing the Laurel Hill, Calvary, Masonic, and Odd Fellows Cemeteries.

There is a panoramic view of the city across the narrow channel into the St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs, bounded on the left by the Fort Mason piers and to the right by a towering eucalyptus grove bordering Crissy Field. The park and trail to it are wheelchair accessible, with the trailhead at the Marina Green park. [3]

Fort Mason United States historic place

Fort Mason, once known as San Francisco Port of Embarkation, US Army, in San Francisco, California, is a former United States Army post located in the northern Marina District, alongside San Francisco Bay. Fort Mason served as an Army post for more than 100 years, initially as a coastal defense site and subsequently as a military port facility. During World War II, it was the principal port for the Pacific campaign.

Crissy Field former U.S. Army airfield, is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, California, United States

Crissy Field, a former U.S. Army airfield, is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, California, United States. Historically part of the Presidio of San Francisco, Crissy Field closed as an airfield after 1974. Under Army control, the site was affected by dumping of hazardous materials. The National Park Service took control of the area in 1994 and, together with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, worked to restore the site until 2001, when the Crissy Field Center was opened to the public. While most buildings have been preserved as they were in the 1920s, some have been transformed into offices, retail space, and residences.

Marina Green park in San Francisco, San Francisco County, United States of America

The Marina Green in San Francisco, California, is a 74-acre (300,000 m2) expanse of grass between Fort Mason and the Presidio. It is adjacent to San Francisco Bay, and this location provides good views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, and parts of Marin County. Houses built mostly in the 1920s and 1930s line Marina Boulevard, the southern boundary of the Marina Green. Many of these houses have large bay windows, and Herb Caen, the late San Francisco newspaper columnist, often made references to the immaculate furnishings behind these windows. In the past, a railroad track along the southern edge of the Marina Green allowed the San Francisco Belt Railroad to serve the Presidio. Adjacent to the Marina Green is a marina, home to the St. Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The San Francisco Bay Trail runs through the green.

The Wave Organ includes 25 PVC organ pipes and is dedicated to Frank Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was the founding director of the Exploratorium, led the fundraising efforts for the Wave Organ, and died seven months before construction started.

Frank Oppenheimer American particle physicist

Frank Friedman Oppenheimer was an American particle physicist, cattle rancher, professor of physics at the University of Colorado, and the founder of the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

See also

Blackpool <i>High Tide Organ</i> Tidal organ in Blackpool, UK

The High Tide Organ is a tidal organ 15 metres tall constructed in 2002 as part of "The Great Promenade Show" series of sculptures situated along Blackpool's New Promenade in the UK. The artwork, described as a "musical manifestation of the sea", is one of a few examples of a tidal organ; others include the San Francisco Wave Organ and the Sea Organ in Croatia.

Sea organ

The Sea organ is an architectural sound art object located in Zadar, Croatia and an experimental musical instrument, which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps.

<i>Wave Organ</i>

The Wave Organ is a sculpture constructed on the shore of San Francisco Bay in May 1986 by the Exploratorium, and more specifically, by Exploratorium artist in residence Peter Richards, who conceived and designed the organ, working with sculptor and mason George Gonzales.

Related Research Articles

Octavia Boulevard

Octavia Boulevard is a major street in San Francisco, California that replaced the Hayes Valley portion of the damaged two-level Central Freeway. Once a portion of Octavia Street alongside shadowy, fenced-off land beneath the elevated U.S. Route 101 roadway, Octavia Boulevard was redeveloped and redesigned upon the suggestion of Mark Jolles of San Francisco.

Berkeley Pier

The Berkeley Pier is in Berkeley, California. When constructed in 1926, the pier extended 3.5 miles (5.6 km) into San Francisco Bay from the end of University Avenue. Due to extensive filling of the bay and the creation of the Berkeley Marina, it presently extends only 2.5 miles (4.0 km). Since 1937, only the first 3,000 feet (910 m) were maintained and open to the public until July 2015, when public access was closed due to safety concerns.

Fort Baker historic military facility in San Francisco

Fort Baker is one of the components of California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Fort, which borders the City of Sausalito in Marin County and is connected to San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge, served as an Army post until the mid-1990s, when the headquarters of the 91st Division moved to Parks Reserve Forces Training Area. It is located opposite Fort Point at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.

Berkeley Marina Neighborhood of Berkeley in Alameda, California, United States

The Berkeley Marina is the westernmost portion of the city of Berkeley, California, located west of the Eastshore Freeway at the foot of University Avenue on San Francisco Bay. Narrowly speaking, "Berkeley Marina" refers only to the city marina, but in common usage, it applies more generally to the surrounding area.

El Museo Mexicano or The Mexican Museum is a San Francisco, California, United States museum created to exhibit the aesthetic expression of the Latino, Chicano, Mexican, and Mexican-American people. Currently, their exhibition space at Fort Mason Center is permanently closed.

Berkeley I-80 bridge

The Berkeley I-80 bridge also known as the University Avenue pedestrian bridge and the Berkeley Marina overpass is a 15-foot (4.6 m)-wide bridge spanning the Eastshore Freeway in Berkeley, California. It forms part of the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Presidio Fire Department

Established in 1917, the Presidio Fire Department provides primary emergency response to the Presidio of San Francisco.

Brickyard Cove, Richmond, California neighborhood in Richmond, California, United States of America

Brickyard Cove is an upscale waterfront neighborhood in Richmond, California.

Schoonmaker Point is a low-lying landform jutting into San Francisco Bay at Sausalito, California. This area was created by dredge spoils from Richardson Bay during local Marin Shipyards shipbuilding activity during World War II. Schoonmaker Point is situated approximately 1.7 miles (2.7 km) south of the Sausalito/Marin City interchange of U.S. Highway 101 immediately north of Bridgeway Boulevard. The Schoonmaker Point Marina is located here, along with a 2.3-acre (9,300 m2) sand beach.. From Schoonmaker Point there are views of Mount Tamalpais and the San Francisco downtown skyline.

Greens Restaurant

Greens Restaurant is a landmark vegetarian restaurant in the Fort Mason Center in the Marina District, San Francisco, California, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

Marina District, San Francisco Neighborhood of San Francisco in California, United States

The Marina District is a neighborhood located in San Francisco, California. The neighborhood sits on the site of the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition, staged after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to celebrate the reemergence of the city. Aside from the Palace of Fine Arts (POFA), all other buildings were demolished to make the current neighborhood. The Marina currently has the highest non-Hispanic white resident percentage of any recognized neighborhood in San Francisco.

The General Frank M. Coxe is a steam ferry which was built for the United States Army to provide transportation services among several military facilities that ring California's San Francisco Bay.

Clipper Yacht Harbor is a recreational marina located in the city of Sausalito, California, U.S.A. three miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge. Since 1947, it has been harboring boats up to 60’ feet in length. Clipper Yacht Harbor is the largest harbor in Sausalito, it features 800 slips and dry storage spaces. Clipper Yacht Harbor is the only full service harbor in Sausalito, which can accommodate all boating needs.

San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department

The San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department is the city agency responsible for governing and maintaining all city owned parks and recreational facilities in San Francisco, California. The Recreation & Parks Department also runs Sharp Park in Pacifica, California and Camp Mather in Tuolumne County, California. Current facilities include 4,113 acres (1,664 ha) of total recreational and open space with 3,400 acres (1,376 ha) of that land within San Francisco. The department runs 179 playgrounds and play areas, 82 recreation centers and clubhouses, nine swimming pools, five golf courses, 151 tennis courts, 72 basketball courts, 59 soccer fields, numerous baseball diamonds, and other sports venues.

SS <i>City of Chester</i>

The SS City of Chester was a steamship built in 1875 that sank after a collision with RMS Oceanic at the Golden Gate in San Francisco Bay on August 22, 1888.


  1. The Wave Organ, Exploratorium. http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/wave-organ. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  2. Edwards, Megan. "A Visit to One of San Francisco's Most Delightful Secrets". Road Trip America, September 19, 2008. http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/waveorg.htm. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  3. Lewkowicz, Bonnie. "Fort Mason and the Marina Green in San Francisco." WheelchairTraveling.com. http://www.wheelchairtraveling.com/fort-mason-and-the-marina-green-in-san-francisco/ Accessed January 1, 2016.
Audio recording of the Wave Organ in September 2011