Oddities in San Francisco – Aeolian Harp

 Posted by on June 29, 2011
Jun 292011

This is one of the more obscure pieces of art in the San Francisco area.  It is actually in South San Francisco off Grandview Drive in the Oyster Point area.  It is difficult to find, and surrounded by ugly industrial buildings that over shadow it.  Which is sad, because it is really rather magnificent.

92-feet-tall sculpted by Aristides Demetrios it is one of the world’s largest aeolian harps. Named for Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind, and invented by the 17th-century polymath Athanasius Kircher, an aeolian harp is a passive instrument played by the movement of the wind.

I was there on a very windy day and what you hear throughout the area is a very low pitch hum, almost like electrical machinery, not annoying, but there.  It is not so loud that you are absolutely sure that it is playing, and yet you are aware of it.

Not until I visited this site and started researching Aristides did I realize that I have seen, and truly admired, many of his works around the country.

Born in 1932 in Massachusetts. His father, George Demetrios, was a classical sculptor, trained by Bourdelle, a student of Rodin. His mother, Virginia Lee Burton was author and illustrator of children’s books, including Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and The Little House, for which she won the Caldecott prize. After graduating from Harvard, Demetrios spent three years as an officer in the Navy and then studied at the George Demetrios School for three years. In 1963, he won his first national sculpture competition when his proposed design was selected for a major fountain commission at Stanford. Shortly after that, he was chosen to be the sculptor for a public art commission in Sacramento in front of the County Courthouse; subsequently, he was selected to design and fabricate the sculpture to grace the entry to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   The piece I recognized right away was “Cosmos”, a large red work of steel off Highway 80 near Roseville, California as you drive up to Lake Tahoe.   If you too think any of those are familiar, you can check out his website and see all of his work.