Orbit Pavilion Captures Sounds of Satellites at Huntington Gardens Installation

It’s a big silver shell, about the size of an apartment. The interior beams curve upward to form a dome and the strips of its façade swirl around it. It’s the Orbit Pavilion on the grounds of the Huntington Library. And you won’t see anything like it anywhere else this year or any other year.

That’s because it’s not just a structure: It captures the music of satellites. Each time one of NASA’s 19 spacecrafts pass overhead, the structure plays its soundtrack on 28 speakers. As the satellites moves, the sound follows them around the structure and around the audience. Four or more satellites are audible at most times.

Included in this symphony of high-flying microgravity vehicles is the International Space Station. Each of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s crafts has been assigned its own sound. A frog croak. Leaves in the wind. A human voice.

The pavilion was conceived by Dan Goods and Dave Delgado, visual strategists at NASA’s nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory, home to world famous interplanetary crafts such as the two Voyagers, planetary probes and the Mars Rover. But the goal of the installation is to show the world that NASA doesn’t just study space; its satellites track climate, oceans and earthquakes, too – hence the choice of sounds.

The pavilion was designed by Studio KCA, a New York Architecture firm, and will be open through February. It’s the first in a series of Huntington projects called “Five,” aimed at bringing new audiences to the library, home to one of the rare surviving complete Gutenberg Bibles, and introducing them to the permanent collections through unusual experiences involving modern concepts.

Goods and Delgado got the idea for the pavilion – its shape suggests a spiraling seashell you’d find at the beach – when they visited the deep space antennas in the Mojave Desert. Delgado told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune he wondered what it would be like to hear the sounds of space, and that led him to conceive a pavilion that synthesized sounds to play as satellites passed over it.

The Orbit Pavilion is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays Oct. 29 – Feb. 27 at the Huntington Library, 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino. Tickets are here although advance purchase is not required.