Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn (2008)

Permanent (Civic Art Collection)

North Beach: Plaza at Broadway and Columbus Avenue (View Map)

Language of the Birds is a permanent site-specific sculpture installed at a pedestrian plaza linking Chinatown and North Beach. Each of the artwork’s suspended “books” mimic a bird in motion, with various wing positions created by the forms of the pages and bindings. Passing under the flock, pedestrians will notice words and phrases embedded in the plaza floor, which appear to have fallen from the pages above. On closer inspection, the fallen words are in English, Italian and Chinese, and were selected from the neighborhood’s rich literary history.

At night, LED lights embedded within the books create visual patterns – at different times one might see the flock subtly pulsing or giving off a spectacular zoetrope effect. It is the first solar power-offset public artwork in California; the artists teamed with scientist David Shearer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore to provide solar power to the city’s grid, offsetting the energy used by the artwork.

Best Viewing: Stand on the west side of Columbus Avenue north of Broadway; look up and down to catch the full effect. Continue south on Columbus to City Lights Bookstore to complete the experience!

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.