Awesome Architectural Acoustics That Make a Difference

Visual factors in architecture almost always steal the show, but sound plays a bigger role in the final experience than many people realize. In fact, architectural acoustics are becoming a more central focus in the building process as the impact of sound continues to be explored. Sound can be achieved and designed in a variety of ways but it absolutely must be considered. Here are some ways that architectural acoustic design is being used and why it matters. 

The Sound Of Silence

Many architects and designers take into account what they envision for a space in terms of audible sound. For example, a library may need to have soft, classical music piped into it while a healthcare clinic may ask for additional insulation and sound masking solutions in order to maintain patient privacy. But strategically planned silence is just as important as the sounds visitors will hear in a building. It is important to recognize where sound and silence each belong as you start a design as they are two sides of the same coin, crucial to creating a balanced, intentional space. 

Sound & Emotion 

Architects are trained to focus on the aesthetics as they plan a project, envisioning what the end experience will look like and feel like to visitors. Now the industry is starting to understand that “the interplay between aural and visual architecture… can create powerful spatial experiences.” Taking this concept a step further, sound can serve to unite people in a space and/or stir emotions, creating shared experiences and bonds. 

Kjetil Traedal Thorsen, Founding Partner & Architect with Snohetta, explained that our perception of our surroundings most often deals with the visual aspects and what can be seen, but it is really all of our senses that react to our surroundings. Acoustics may be less immediately obvious, but they’ve become more and more important in design issues. Thorsen said he thinks of architecture as the “art of prepositions,” in that an architect’s job is to paint where humans will be located in relation to a space; over, under, in, etc. But he points out that sound helps in this process and must be intentionally designed in order to give visitors a greater sense of how and where they fit into a space. 

Sound As A Shape

Of course, architectural acoustic design most frequently deals with the actual planning around sound and silence in a building. But some architects are taking the interplay even further. One firm in London decided they needed to visualize sound in order to really understand it. They created a spectrogram of individual audio signals and combined data from multiple spectrograms in order to create a 3D model of the sonic environment, which they call a soundscape. Then they designed a sculpture of the soundscape of the Magna Carta being spoken for the British Pavilion at the 2020 Dubai Expo. This is a stunning representation of the marriage of sound and sight in architecture. 

Whether you work with a sound design company, sound design engineer or other AV experts, it is important to have acoustic expertise in the pre-design phase of a project whenever possible. This way you can map out all sound considerations before much of the planning is underway and ensure that sound is prioritized as much as visual components are. If you would like to work with a partner on this for your next project, we can help. Contact us here!