Visitors to a park in Xiangyang are greeted by over 500 bright purple fins, which are dotted with LEDs and play traditional Chinese music from internal speakers.


Vienna and Beijing-based architects Penda designed The Soundwave sculpture for Myrtle Tree Garden, a two-square-mile park inhabited by a collection of 1000-year-old myrtle trees with vibrant purple foliage. Penda added banks of tall steel fins, which look like a miniature metropolis, to the entrance of the gardens on the outskirts of Xiangyang city in Hubei province.




Penda based the design on the quote “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music” by German writer and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The purple pillars of varying heights are intended to represent the rising and falling bars of a digital sound visualiser that synchronises with crescendos and diminuendos in music.


“Music, rhythm and dance in combination with the surrounding landscape were the main parameters shaping The Soundwave,” said the architects. “Resting on Goethe’s definition ‘Architecture is frozen music’, the aggregation of fins presents a solidified moment of a soundwave in motion.”



The fins are clad in sheets of perforated stainless steel in four shades of purple, representing the tones found in the flowering trees.


LEDs shine through the tiny holes in the steel at night, illuminating the entrance and reflecting off pools of water, while speakers installed in some of the square-sectioned shafts play traditional Chinese music.


The brightness of the light and volume of the music are controlled by motion sensors around the site, activated by the movement of passers by.


“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,” explained the studio. “The louder the music, the more vivid the movement, the brighter the illumination on the plaza.”


Passageways between the steel columns lead to “clearing-like” areas designed to be used for social gatherings and dance performances.


“The field of fins gives 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,” said the architects.


Last year, the architects revealed designs for a hotel that will stand within the park. The Myrtle Garden Hotel will be situated on a grassy bank and will feature a looping form that encloses three garden courtyards.