City Illuminated: Art Installations Light Up San Francisco

The story behind 5 of the art works setting the urban landscape aglow

A number of San Francisco's public art installations are best visited at night. Here are just a few of the spectacular illuminated artworks (all completely free and open to the public) spread throughout the city that offer a new perspective after the sun has set. 

Seeing the Installations

"Language of the Birds" by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2008)

“Language of the Birds” by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2008) 

An LED-illuminated flock of bird-like books floats over a small plaza connecting North Beach and Chinatown. Carved into the ground below, words in three languages seem as if they spilled from the fluttering pages, a nod to the neighborhood’s literary legacy. North Beach, between Broadway and Columbus Avenues


“Soma” by the Flaming Lotus Girls (2009)

“Soma” by the Flaming Lotus Girls (2009)

This 50-foot long interactive sculpture, created by 100 volunteers for Burning Man, represents the communication of two neurons and is named for a cell in the body. Waterfront, Embarcadero at Mission Street 


“Sky Garden, 2004” by ©James Turrell

“Sky Garden, 2004” by James Turrell

This sculpture of neon light in shades of blue, indigo and violet inside a three-story opening on the face of the San Francisco Federal Building presents fresh perceptions based on whether it’s viewed from the outside, inside or at a distance. Mid-Market, 90 7th St.


Metropolitan Radiance “Bayview Rise” by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan (2014)

“Bayview Rise” by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan (2014)

A pair of abandoned silos serve as the canvas for a shifting light show that washes the towers with brightly colored images. Waterfront, Pier 92, 3rd Street and Cargo Way


”Caruso’s Dream” by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2014)

”Caruso’s Dream” by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2014)

13 glowing glass-and-steel pianos dangling over a sidewalk from a 17-story high rise glimmer in time to the recordings of Enrico Caruso, the operatic tenor who awoke at the Palace Hotel during the 1906 Earthquake unaware if he was still dreaming or not. Civic Center, 55 9th St.


 Mapping Out An Illuminated San Francisco

Rachel Ward
About the author

Rachel serves as the San Francisco editor fo...