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Penda’s Soundwave Landscape Sculpture, China


Beijing and Vienna-based practice Penda has recently completed a landscape sculpture in Xiangyang, China, which consists of more than 500 perforated, vibrantly coloured steel fins varying in height. The sculpture marks the entrance gate to the largest Myrtle Tree Garden in Asia. Music, Rhythm and Dance in combination with the surrounding landscape were the main parameters shaping ‘the Soundwave’.

As visitors enter the sculpture to the Myrtle Tree Garden, they are surrounded by more than 800 fins which sprout up like trees in a topographical landscape of stones and water. Resting on Göthe’s definition “Architecture is frozen music”, the aggregation of fins presents a solidified moment of a Soundwave in motion. The vivid city, the rhythm of music and the colour of nature are reflected within this moment.


Like many other public squares throughout China, during the evening this plaza is used by the locals for group dancing. Each of the fins are perforated towards the top and contain stripes of LEDs. The orchestra of 500 fins produce a lighting, which is connected to the plaza’s sound system and reacts in a very direct way to the movement on the plaza. The louder the music, the more vivid the movement, the brighter the illumination on the plaza.


Four different shades of purple, the tone of the Myrtle Tree, were applied as a colouring scheme. The field of fins give the visitors a sense of being surrounded by tree trunks, strolling through the woods, being disoriented for a moment, but also able to peek through some openings between the fins to be guided further. Like walking through a forest, the spaces in-between the fins are varying from narrow footpaths to wider clearing-like areas, giving the visitors and local dance-groups an opportunity to vitalise the sculpture during day and night.

The plaza can be seen as a transitional space between the city and the landscape. Looking at the sculpture from further away, it punctures a skyline-like image of a city onto the horizon, but when entering the square, the colour and light, invite the visitors in a sensual way into the natural landscape of the Myrtle Tree Garden.


The Fins, which form the rhythm of the sculpture are cladded by perforated purple stainless steal-panels . Through an electrolytic passivation process (anodised), the panels were coloured in a bath of electrolyte and electricity, which keeps the main characteristics of the steel unimpaired and corrosion resistant.

During the day, the matte finish of the panels reflects its surrounding and transforms with the position of the sun, to produce a changing appearance of the sculpture throughout the day. In addition to the shimmering surface of the purple metal, the fins are located in four different water ponds. The reflection of the water adds to the play of light. At night, the lighting within the fins generate a constantly transforming image of the sculpture, which reacts directly to the visitors movements on the plaza.

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all images © XIA ZHI