tidal ribbon

one year of tides, made touchable
exhibit designer/developer – apr 2013
Tidal Ribbon is a data sculpture displaying NOAA tide data collected in San Francisco Bay. Installed in 2013 in the Exploratorium's Bay Observatory gallery, the piece augments the view of the water with a glimpse of the water's past.

A collection of lasercut acrylic slices span eight feet, each representing one day and collectively describing a year's worth of tides. Each daily slice is annotated with details of the tide heights, moon phase, and other relevant information.

Created with Doug Thistlethwaite at the Exploratorium; inspired by the work of Adrien Segal.

  • Tide slices

    Close-up of tide slices. The ridges correspond to the six-minute sampling interval of the tide gauge.
    Photograph by Gayle Laird, Exploratorium.

  • Examining the daily slices

    Each slice can be pulled out for closer examination of the daily record.
    Photograph by Gayle Laird, Exploratorium.

  • Staggered tides

    Tides arrive about one hour later every day, creating a wave pattern.

  • First prototype

    The first prototype, showing The Tōhoku tsunami in March 2011

  • Two early iterations

    Two early iterations side-by-side