ILLUMINATE SF

FIREFLY

Ned Kahn (2012)

Permanent (Civic Art Collection)

Civic Center: 525 Golden Gate Avenue at Polk Street (View Map)

Firefly dramatically reveals how wind moves around and through this nearly 12-story kinetic sculpture, which features a lattice of tens of thousands of hinged, five-inch-square clear polycarbonate panels that swing with the unseen patterns of the wind. Each panel has an embedded magnet that connects with an electrical reed switch. Illumination of the sculpture requires less energy than a 75-watt light bulb.

By day, the work appears like rippling waves of glass. By night, the back and forth swinging of the panels trigger the flickering of tiny led lights colored to mimic fireflies, which are a threatened species due to their dependence on riparian ecosystems. The artwork also serves as a gantry for a series of power-generating, vertical axis wind turbines that power the lights and feed electricity back into the building. It is commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) state-of-the-art headquarters.


Artists: From Civic Center Plaza, walk north on Polk Street to Golden Gate Avenue. Look behind the north-facing artwork to catch a glimpse of the wind turbines. Best night viewing is directly across the street; move under the awning to block the ambient streetlight.

Visit artist Ned Kahn’s other installation featured in Illuminate SF: Wind Portal at the SFO BART Station.

Presenting Sponsor


5M is a new, vibrant mixed-use destination in the heart of San Francisco located at the intersection of 5th and Mission streets. Developed by Brookfield Properties, named “Developer of the Year” by the San Francisco Business Times in 2021, the four-acre parcel was previously home to parking lots and underutilized buildings. Now, it has been transformed into a lively community for locals and visitors alike.