Pentatonic - CODAworx


Submitted by Architecture Social Club

Client: Xi'an Airport

Location: Xi'an, China

Completion date: 2021

Project Team

Architecture Social Club

Architecture Social Club

Xi'an Airport

Xi'an Airport




AI recognition combines with traditional Chinese string instruments (like the erhu – a two-stringed fiddle, guqin – a seven-stringed zither, and guzheng – a multi-stringed zither) to craft an interactive, spatial music experience, colouring the memories of visitors to China. Through the universal language of music, we created an experience that merges the rich cultural history of China with the vibrance of present-day Xi’an.

An array of mechanical frets and strings tensioned on columns recreate familiar sounds. The rhythm is generated through strings played with mechanical pluckers crafted to generate musical tones and harmonies. The frets project and retract, and press onto the strings, creating a rhythmical sea of musical notes, whilst the bespoke light pixels light up visual patterns in response to the participant’s movements and gestures. Each column can play 15 notes in the pentatonic scale. When played together, they form beautiful harmonies in surround sound.


Xi’an is a city with deep traditional roots. We looked back to their traditional instruments to create a familiar and empathetic experience that encouraged human interaction empowering the participant to explore through dance and movement.

Due to the success of the experience the duration was extended from two months to five months. This project represents a fusion between traditional musicianship and bespoke craftsmanship, along with emotive generative AI interactive and musical technologies.

We developed a 360-degree spatial interactive string instrument capable of tracking body movements through every joint. This experimental creation employs mechanical pluckers and actuated frets to generate sounds inspired by traditional string instruments.

Designed to be installed within stringent complex airport acceccibility guidelines and procedures. Renewable timber was employed as the primary construction material to ensure an environmentally responsible, low-carbon footprint for the project.