When Imagination Goes Public


When Imagination Goes Public
When Imagination Goes Public
Sound Commons by Exploratorium Studio for Public Spaces

Lot Project

Sound Commons


United Nations Plaza
See Map



Date Installed

June 2016


Exploratorium’s Studio for Public Spaces


The Hunter's Point Family
Tenderloin CBD


California State Housing-Related Parks Program

An interactive sound and music-based installation at UN Plaza.

Sound Commons is composed of four main elements that wind throughout the plaza’s trees, consisting of wooden boardwalks punctuated by dynamic and durable ‘sonic phenomena’ such as mammoth chimes, xylophones, echo tubes and massive wooden pendulums.

The installation was shaped by community feedback from the organizations that program in the space (e.g. Heart of the City Farmer’s Market) and fronting properties in the area. The installation aims to transform and enliven one of San Francisco’s most challenging public spaces and test out ideas that may be incorporated in the Civic Center Public Realm Plan and Better Market Street Plan.

Sound Commons is staffed 7 days a week by Hunters Point Family, a non-profit organization whose work-experience program employs at-risk youth and adults. Staff also serve as docents to answer questions and share tips about the projects. Supplemental cleaning services are provided by the Downtown Streets Team, a privately-funded program that engages unhoused individuals in the maintenance of public spaces while assisting them with long-term employment opportunities and housing.

More about Sound Commons maintenance and stewardship




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