Sonic Gates


Culture/spatial connection

The public art project Sonic Gates is a sculpture walk comprised of a series of art installations that offer opportunities to publicly perform or ‘play’ the sculptures and create improvised sounds and compositions. Sonic Gates installations are located on Staten Island’s North Shore and distributed across a distance of about 1.5 miles through the towns of St. George, Tompkinsville and Stapleton.

The artworks are a pilot project based on the Future Culture recommendations developed through the Design Trust for Public Space and Staten Island Arts. Siting of artwork across dispersed locales is a response to specific opportunities for change identified in the Future Culture recommendations, including a central theme of imagining ways to use creative production to help strengthen spatial and cultural connection in the North Shore.

Specific installations objectives include:
• Promoting exploration by providing intuitive wayfinding & place-based cultural awareness interventions.
• Activating underused open space by utilizing “in-between” spaces that are overlooked or undefined, and thereby enhancing existing green spaces.
•Improving the experience of transportation infrastructure by physically moving people with culture.
• Celebrating the waterfront by preserving/enhancing the experience of maritime culture and fostering ecological and community resiliency through culture.

Guide to Visual Identity:

Design work for Sonic Gates centered on wayfinding and communication, all of which used concise principles to guide activity:
• Facilitate Engagement by mitigating barriers to local and visitor participation.
• Contextualize Place by showing/explaining spatial relationships in an intelligible way.
• Represent Culture by embodying respect for and value of public art in quality of design.

Sonic Gates wayfinding design meets the needs of two groups, visitors and local community, by collapsing and expanding space accordingly.

For visitors and first-time guests the feeling of distance and anxiety of unfamilar space is decreased by signs installed through the three towns that always display a full system map which highlights time (over distance) between key locations. These signs are supplemented by a persistent system of graphic markings on sidewalk surfaces that act as trail markers to indicate and confirm a user’s path.

For local residents customary space can sometimes be circumscribed by habit and mode of mobility. Additionally, local streetscape at town margins can seem low in distinctive features, resulting in intermediary spaces being perceived as gaps between destinations rather than as unique spaces in their own right. The persistent signs and markers of the wayfinding system act as interventions to bridge gaps, add engagement opportunities to low-feature areas, and provoke an expansion of the space of routinized mobilities.

(Black & white concept images show original design vision. Final implementation adapted to budget and city regulations.)



staten island arts
design trust for public space
volker goetze
designer: john schettino
fabricator: s.i. makerspace

  • project identity
  • identity guidelines
  • wayfinding strategy
  • map design
  • signage program
  • project website
  • print collateral