Hylebos Harmonic - CODAworx

Client: City of Federal Way, Washington

Location: Federal Way, WA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $364,500

Project Team


The Art Studio

RDG Planning & Design


Federal Way


Structural Engineer

Bright Engineering, Inc.

Geotechnical Engineer

Materials Testing & Consulting

Geotechnical Engineer

Soil & Environmental Engineers

Metal Fabrication

Iowa Metal Fabrication, LLC

Stone Supplier / Installer

Coverall Stone, Inc.

Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC)

Pacific Columns, Inc.

General Contractor

Multi-M Contracting


Hylebos Harmonic: to hear with our eyes- a visual expression of sound.

The installation Hylebos Harmonic at the Federal Way Performing Arts Center is based upon on connections between water, sound, and color growing out of an experience walking through the Hylebos Wetland, a treasured community park, wetlands and watershed near the Center in Federal Way, Washington. The word harmonic highlights connections between music, mathematics, and physics. Understanding sound as energy and the physical implications of energy – feeling the vibrations – we became inspired by the idea of transformation and exploring different ways of experiencing sound. We became interested in ‘visualizing’ sound and connecting the Performing Arts visitor to sound through sight realized in glass mosaic and stone.


At the invitation of project stakeholders, we explored the wetland, we listened carefully. We felt immediately the energy of the natural world around us, connected by water and sound and the experience inspired a desire to give form to this moment of beauty and tranquility. Reflecting on this experience in nature, our goal for the installation is to speak visually to “music” without necessarily hearing a sound. Inviting the viewer, the Patron of the Arts, to enter another world without leaving the lobby of the building, the installation relates to the architecture of the building and lobby using the location and geometry of the former reflecting pool and anchoring the lobby corner creating simultaneously reflection and transparency connecting the lobby and plaza beyond suggesting a visual experience of the still pools of water found in the Hylebos wetlands.


What does the Song Sparrow song look like? The patterns and colors of the mosaic glass columns are inspired by the birdsong of the Song Sparrow, a native species from the Hylebos Wetland in the form of a chromo acoustical column or sonogram. We found a recording of a Song Sparrow and translated the song through a software that describes specific qualities of a given sound or series of sounds creating a scientific translation of pitch, intensity, and duration of a sound frequency. With the sonogram as a scientific visualization of sound energy - we interpreted the diagrams in colorful variations expressing the rhythm, pitch, and intensity of the bird song in Italian glass mosaic tile and illuminated by LED lighting at the base. The placement of the columns builds a dynamic, rhythmic progression wrapping the corner of the building, bringing nature through the glass into the lobby in the form of a crescendo. A monumental interior column serves as a touchstone and connects the interior lobby to the exterior as a way of interacting with the installation from the interior.

Additional Information

Reflections of the sonic columns on the lobby glass walls creates a space that invites the visitor, the viewer, to be “inside” of the installation, using the glass curtain wall as a mirror and a filter. Large chunks of native basalt, polished to a mirror finish, are arranged as another layer of reflection between the mosaic glass columns and the glass of the Center’s lobby. These elements together are orchestrated in a way to invite an opportunity to reflect on our own experiences in nature and with an imaginative leap - to hear with our eyes.