Decoding the Tree of Life - CODAworx

Decoding the Tree of Life

Client: Penn Medicine

Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States

Completion date: 2021

Project Team


Maya Lin

Foundry / Fabricator / Workshop

UAP | Urban Art Projects

Partner Supplier

AO Glass


“My approach to this piece is to create something that is uplifting, that has a sense of wonder and beauty… I want to make you aware of your surroundings in the Pavilion, in this beacon of scientific advancement, connecting you to the physical and natural world around you while symbolizing the very essence of life—DNA.” – Maya Lin

Over 15,500 handblown glass spheres were affixed to 22 cast and welded stainless steel branches to create Maya Lin’s ‘Decoding the Tree of Life’, a site-specific installation for Penn Medicine’s Pavilion.


Lin was commissioned by Penn Medicine to create a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere for patients and visitors, while connecting the fundamental elements of life and science. Combining DNA and a branches of a tree, Maya Lin explores how science and medicine can help us understand the basic foundations of life and to help us unlock these incredibly complex codes in 'Decoding the Tree of Life'. Lin’s incredible work is suspended from the Pavilion’s ceilings, and weaves between the ground floor and connector levels within the Pavilion’s atrium.