A Day with the Kids in SoMa

San Francisco Kid Activities

181 Fremont Residences’ location in sophisticated SoMa is a boon for adults who love the arts and culture. But the littlest residents of these luxury condos in San Francisco have their very own local treasure to explore, where they can stretch their imaginations, skills, and technical know-how, all while having fun. The Children’s Creativity Museum (CCM) is located on Fourth and Howard Streets inside the lovely Yerba Buena Gardens. Formerly known as “Zeum” when it first opened in 1998, CCM takes an innovative approach to museum education that bypasses the passive absorption of dusty displays and dioramas and, instead, invites kids and families to create their own multimedia experiences in one of the museum’s many hands-on “labs.”

According to their mission statement, CCM has worked to “move the conventional approach of play to one of invention” and to “shift the focus from media consumption to media production.” So, no snapping photos on smartphones or checking Facebook while strolling through an exhibit: here, kids from ages 2 to12 make their own projects with educators who are excited to pass along their skills to young innovators. Visitors can take part in Design Challenges, Robot Coding, Music Video Production, Stop Motion Animation for an afternoon or even for weeks at a time during the summer.

Younger kids adore the Animation Studio, where they can learn about an essential filmmaking technique and get their hands dirty in clay. Kids can mold characters from soft clay using colors they choose and then work with museum educators to create a storyboard and produce a stop-motion short film. The museum’s stop-motion animation stations allow kids to choose different backdrops to set the scene and complete their films, which can then be emailed to parents.

At the Tech Lab, older kids learn how to program a robot to navigate mazes and play games using basic coding skills—a birthright in San Francisco. Creative problem-solving is the name of the game, and kids are encouraged to think through obstacles and puzzles in the pursuit of the solution. Their reward is the fun of watching their creation make its way through a maze, avoiding obstacles and responding to sensory information. Similarly, the Innovation Lab gives kids a tough puzzle to solve in the form of the Mystery Box, which contains basic materials that families can use to solve a problem. There are no fancy gadgets or tools to deploy here, just simple supplies and brainstorming. In the Music Studio, kids create their own music videos by performing Karaoke-style with costumes and applying custom backgrounds with green-screen technology.

Summer vacations can be artistic adventures too, with programs like this summer’s Musical Theater Camp, which is co-organized at CCM with the Bay Area Children’s Theatre, or Art Lab, where kids aged 3-5 can get a rich experience that includes songs, games, sensory-based play, and storytelling. And 5- to 6-year-olds can join the Play-Well Jedi Engineering camp, making refinements on the structure of LEGO® X-Wings and R2-units —all in a day’s work for a budding designer.

Undoubtedly, many of the grown-up residents of the luxury condos at 181 Fremont are accomplished professionals whose problem-solving skills and creativity are fueling the Bay Area’s thriving tech industry. With regular visits to the Children’s Creativity Museum, followed by a stroll through the Yerba Buena Gardens or a build-your-own-lunch at the nearby Vietnamese sandwich shop Freshroll, chances are the future will be in good (inventive) hands.

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The Bay Lights: Illuminating the San Francisco Skyline

One of the most spectacular features of the new San Francisco luxury condos for sale at 181 Fremont is the view. Perched high above the vibrant streets of SoMa, the top 17 floors of this 801-foot-tall structure afford residents lovely scenes of the city skyline on one side and the San Francisco Bay on the other, where The Bay Lights, a unique, shimmering art installation illuminates the sky and water. Conceived by artist Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights was originally designed to be a temporary installation on the San Francisco Bay Bridge but became so popular that Illuminate the Arts, the San Francisco arts advocacy group that first brought the project to life, gathered support and raised $4 million to make it a permanent fixture in the city.

The installation is a work of artistic and technical magic, comprising over 25,000 individual LED lights running along the bridge’s 300 cables. Far from the quiet solitude of an artist’s studio, the San Francisco Bay Bridge is one of California’s most heavily trafficked thoroughfares, so planning for both the temporary and permanent installations of The Bay Lights was a formidable undertaking. Weather, traffic, the possibility of earthquakes, and the unpredictability of a busy urban bridge were all considered in making Villareal’s project a physical reality. Using the original blueprints from 1936, a team of engineers, IT professionals, and safety experts collaborated with Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation) and the engineering and design firms of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Zoon Engineering, and Philips Color Kinetics and Kapsch to draw up plans, while the women-owned electric firm of Bleyco Inc. took the lead on installation. The incredible design and installation process was documented in the film Impossible Light by director Jeremy Ambers.

Leo Villareal, the artist whose vision brought The Bay Lights into existence, is a gifted polymath whose site-specific light sculptures have brightened public spaces all over the world. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native earned a BA in sculpture from Yale University in 1990 and an MA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Interactive Telecommunications Program. His work is represented in several important museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But for Villareal, the objects shown in museums are just one part of his artistic practice, as the world outside and the elements of light and sound, space, weather, people, architecture, and cars provide him materials on a canvas writ large.

In 2012, Villareal created Cosmos, a site-specific work on the campus of Cornell University, which is composed of nearly 12,000 LED lights suspended above the Mallin Sculpture Court at the University’s Johnson Museum. At night, the work mirrors the stars in the sky, and the software that powers its illumination generates new patterns over time. The same year, he created a work called Buckyball in New York’s Madison Square Park, which features a 30-foot-tall set of illuminated spheres—one nested inside the other—that cast a colorful glow from within the park at night. For an earlier piece, Multiverse, Villareal designed 41,000 LED nodes to illuminate the walkway between the East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

While most people who encounter Villareal’s outdoor works happen upon them during their travels, the residents of the luxury San Francisco condos at 181 Fremont can enjoy the elegant glimmer of The Bay Lights from the best seats in the house as they sit down to dinner or watch the sunset. From the luxury condo’s amenity floor—itself a dazzling display of ingenious interior design—residents can take in the spectacular views of this unique work of art and share it with friends in high style, as the perfect complement to sparkling conversation.

Image courtesy of ©iStock.com/beebuddy