The wave organ of San Francisco, California

The Wave Organ: A Tidal-Powered Acoustic Sculpture in San Francisco

The Wave Organ is an acoustic sculpture that utilizes the power of waves to produce sound. It is situated on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay, and was created through a collaboration between Peter Richards, a senior artist at the Exploratorium, and sculptor and master stone mason George Gonzalez. The idea for the piece was inspired by artist Bill Fontana’s recordings of sounds from a vent pipe of a floating concrete dock in Sydney, Australia.

The wave organ of San Francisco, California

In 1980, with the help of a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Richards conducted extensive research into the physical properties of wave-activated sound. A prototype was displayed as part of the New Music ’81 Festival, which generated excitement and support for a permanent installation. Efforts to acquire permits and raise funds were led by Frank Oppenheimer, the Founding Director of the Exploratorium, but construction did not begin until 1985, seven months after Oppenheimer’s passing. The Wave Organ was completed in May 1986 and was dedicated in June in memory of Frank Oppenheimer.

The Wave Organ is located on a jetty in the Marina district of San Francisco, which was built using materials from a demolished cemetery, including a range of carved granite and marble. It features 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete at various heights, allowing for the ebb and flow of the tides to produce sound. The impact of waves against the pipe ends creates the music, which is subtle and requires visitors to be attuned to its quiet melody as well as the sounds of the surrounding environment. The Wave Organ is at its best during high tide.

In conclusion, The Wave Organ is a truly unique and captivating acoustic sculpture that utilizes the power of waves to produce sound. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the intersection of art, science, and the environment. Whether you are a local resident or just visiting the San Francisco Bay area, the Wave Organ is a unique and inspiring experience that you won’t want to miss.

83 Marina Green Dr
San Francisco, California, 94123
United States

Photo by PiKappa/



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