San Francisco

Interactive Sound Installation Coming Soon To UN Plaza

The sounds of everyday urban life—sirens whizzing by, streetcars clamoring past, vendors pedaling their wares—are the norm at UN Plaza. But soon, chimes and xylophones will be added to the area's soundtrack.

Over the past week, construction crews at the plaza have been hammering away at "Sound Commons," a new interactive sound installation developed by the Exploratorium. 

The installation is the latest addition to the Planning Department's Living Innovation Zones program, which seeks to activate Market Street's underutilized public spaces with temporary interactive experiences. It's the Exploratorium's second Living Innovation Zone; they're also behind Pause on Market Street, near Yerba Buena Lane. 

Once Sound Commons is complete, the public will be able to explore wooden pathways winding through the plaza's largely ignored lawns. They'll lead to interactive exhibits like aluminum chimes that resemble a forest, swinging pendulums that create syncopated beats, a gravel path that challenges passersby to tiptoe across without making a peep, and echo tubes—based on the popular installation at the Exploratorium.

Renderings of Sound Commons.

According to the Exploratorium's blog, Sound Commons was financed with "parks-focused" funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The installation will debut later this month, and remain in place for two years.

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