upper waypoint

Why the Golden Gate Bridge Is Now a Giant Orange Wheezing Kazoo

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

The Golden Gate Bridge has been turned into the world's largest reed instrument. (Wiki Commons)

UPDATE, 1:30pm: The sound is intentional. See below.

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of the Golden Gate Bridge right now, you are probably asking yourself: What in the world is that sound? A long, loud hum from a deep sea creature? Alien frequencies from outer space? An enormous sigh from San Francisco’s greatest landmark, finally registering its dismay at the state of the world?

Nope—the eerie sound you’re hearing from the Golden Gate Bridge is in fact the result of new sidewalk railing slats, just installed, meant to better handle the wind. Funny thing about wind: when it passes through certain open spaces, it creates a hum. This is how all reed instruments work, and because it spans a very windy gap across the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge is now effectively a giant orange wheezing kazoo.

It’s something that the engineers of said sidewalk panels apparently forgot to take into consideration. UPDATE: The sound is intentional. Or, at least, known about in advance.

According to a statement Saturday morning by Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz of the Bridge District, “The Golden Gate Bridge has started to sing. The new musical tones coming from the bridge are a known and inevitable phenomenon that stem from our wind retrofit during very high winds.”


Cosulich-Schwartz adds: “As part of the design process, the District did extensive studies on the impacts of the project, including wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge under high winds.” Those tests, seen in a video here, showed that the bridge “would begin to hum” when air passed through it more freely.

And it looks like the strange sound is here to stay. The aerodynamic retrofit, on the western, bike-lane side of the bridge, is “necessary to ensure the safety and structural integrity of the bridge for generations to come,” Cosulich-Schwartz says.


This is… going to drive everyone crazy?

And, since the sound can be heard from miles away, the city is now one big David Lynch movie.

Hooray for us, San Francisco! We’ve managed to add one more completely bonkers thing to the year 2020.

(Want to tell the city that, like, you dig Brian Eno and everything, but you don’t really need to hear ambient drones day and night? Here’s how to get in touch with the right people.)

lower waypoint
next waypoint