Variable Order - CODAworx

Variable Order

Submitted by Dan Mayer Studios

Client: Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program

Location: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $528,000

Project Team


Daniel Mayer

Dan Mayer Studios


HOK Architecture

HOK Architecture

Industry Resource

Advance Terrazzo

Bruce and Patricia Thornham

Public Art Agent

Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program

Rebecca Blume Rothman, Program Manager

Industry Resource

Marzee Waterjet Cut Services

Marzee Waterjet Cut Services


Daniel Mayer, a Tempe book artist, was awarded a large-scale public art project for PHX Sky Train’s Terminal-4. Mayer’s terrazzo design “Variable Order” measures 40’x480’ (19,200’ sq. ft.) and includes more than 1000 randomly placed metal letters. Two handwritten phrases span the platform “timeless is the open” and “limitless is the open,” reflecting upon the book of travel. Eight terrazzo colors with recycled blue and clear glass, crushed mirror, and Abalone shell gives the floor vibrancy, depth and detail. Advance Terrazzo and Mayer's design received “The 2013 Job of The Year” by the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association.


The goal was to integrate a large-scale public art project into PHX Sky Train’s multi-modal transportation system connecting to the metropolitan light-rail system. The terrazzo platform is a welcoming beacon for first time Arizona visitors and guests. Mayer’s interactive design invites the viewer to discover the randomly placed aluminum letters (Garamond italic lowercase) and large-scale handwriting as pattern. These constant elements appear and fade as one travels the platform and the terrazzo background shifts from light to dark blue colors.


Daniel Mayer worked for five years on two Sky Train public art projects — the terrazzo design "Variable Order" and the glass murals "Trace Elements". For the terrazzo project Mayer worked closely with the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program, Advance Terrazzo, Marzee Water Jet Services, and HOK Architects. Small 3” x 3” sample terrazzo prototypes representing the color palette for 20,000 sq. ft. were tested at Advance Terrazzo to create the right balance of colors and aggregates before installation. Marzee Water Jet Services cut individual aluminum letters from Mayer’s Illustrator files. For production, one cement mixer was used to consistently blend the terrazzo colors and aggregates for the two-football field long artwork.