Ripples a.k.a. BIG fish - CODAworx

Ripples a.k.a. BIG fish

Client: City of Johnston

Location: Johnston, IA, United States

Completion date: 2021

Project Team


Joe Feldmann

OPN Architects

Landscape Architect

Denise Hurt


Director of Operations

Jason Eveland

Hansen Company Inc

Place Making

Paula Dierenfeld

Mayor City of Johnston


Water is fundamental to all life, embodying a connective force across cultures and geographies. The Ripples installation draws inspiration from the integral role of Saylorville Lake and Terra Lake, vital hubs of outdoor recreation and community bonding. Central to this artwork is the largemouth bass, a species native to these lakes, known for creating distinctive ripples through its movements. These ripples symbolize the far-reaching impacts of water in uniting people and fostering shared experiences.

Ripples, or BIG Fish, manifests as an interactive sculpture, capturing the dynamic essence of the largemouth bass. The installation’s kinetic disk scales and color-changing LEDs evoke the fish’s fluid motion and the shimmering play of light on water. Visitors are invited to step into the belly of the leaping bass, experiencing a spatial journey that transforms their perception of the natural world and their place within it.

This public art piece stands as a beacon, celebrating the lakes’ recreational and communal significance. It invites reflection on water’s vital role and its power to create lasting memories, making Ripples a symbol of connection, life, and the vibrant spirit of the community.


For over fifteen years, the city of Johnston, Iowa, lacked a centralized downtown location where community members could convene, engage in fellowship, and enjoy shared amenities. In response, an interdisciplinary team—comprising architects, landscape architects, planners, city officials, real estate developers, community members, and artists—collaborated to conceptualize and develop the Johnston Town Center. This new center features a substantial green space known as The Yard, a new city hall, restaurants, bike trails, and a splash pad that converts into an ice rink during winter. Ripples, also known as BIG Fish, has emerged as the beacon and symbol of this revitalized public space, fundamentally transforming the dynamics of community interaction and engagement.


The creation of Ripples involved extensive research and development, culminating in a meticulously crafted public art installation. Central to this process was the kinetic skin of the fish, designed to produce shimmering visual effects and delicate sounds. Over 100 iterations and prototypes were developed to refine this kinetic aspect, eventually resulting in a custom kit of parts. This kit comprised over 6,000 individually manufactured components, each tailored to achieve the desired aesthetic and functional outcomes.

In addition to the kinetic skin, significant attention was given to creating an immersive internal spatial experience. This involved designing an exit through the fish's tail, requiring full-scale prototypes to determine the optimal proportions and ensure a seamless visitor journey. The process demanded precise engineering and creative problem-solving to balance structural integrity with artistic vision.

Additional Information

Furthermore, the development of a custom ground cover was a critical aspect of the project. This ground cover incorporated native rocks and concrete, serving both aesthetic purposes and functional requirements for accessibility. It was designed to accommodate visually impaired individuals and comply with ADA standards, ensuring that the installation was inclusive and accessible to all members of the community. The result is a cohesive, interactive artwork that embodies meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful design.