Language of the Birds

320 Columbus Ave San Francisco

VAMONDE San Francisco
Written By VAMONDE San Francisco

Language of the Birds

Literature can be found all around us. It's a necessary part of the world, existing in every culture and society. Language of the Birds, an art installation located on Broadway & Columbus Ave, reminds us all of this important lesson. The piece itself consists of 23 sculpted, open books that are meant to give the illusion of flying birds. Each of the books has its own wing position, formed through the patterning of the pages and bindings.

Illuminating the Sky

This permanent piece by the Civic Art Collection was created by artists Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn in 2008. There's more to Language of the Birds than can be seen at first glance. While during the day it remains static, at night, it lights up the sky with visual patterns. Each of the books has LED lights embedded and installed within their sculpted pages. During the nighttime, different patterns emerge in the books. Sometimes there's a subtle pulse of light, and at other times, there are fantastic effects which boggle the mind. To harness the energy needed for this, the artists worked with specialists to create the first solar power-offset public artwork in California.

Language on the Ground

There's another piece to this artwork beyond the floating books—the floor. Beneath the sculptures on the plaza floor, there are words and phrases as though they fell out of the sky from the books above. The plaza words and phrases are written in English, Chinese, and Italian. They were selected based on the neighborhood's background as a cultural hub of diversity.

Cover image by Sonny Abesamis is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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