As Architects, we design spaces and in the process we create experiences that evoke our visual and tactile senses, but very rarely do we consciously design spaces that focus on the aural experience. Inspired by Julian Treasure’s TedX talk on Why Architects need to use their Ears, this week at MuseMATTERS, we discussed the importance of Sound in Architectural Design
Numerous factors must be considered when designing an interior architecture space and one of the most common issues is acoustics and noise, both within the space and within the environment. If ignored, it can cause health and safety concerns for the users and depending on the function of the space, it can discourage users from returning to the space let alone resulting in huge sums of money to correct the sound quality within it.
Typically, there are several constants within the elements of design which influence the acoustics of a space; for instance, the shape of the walls and ceilings, the materials used and the methods of construction amongst others. But what is more important is to find out exactly what gives rise to this problem before actually defining a solution for it. And this is where the other elements come in, both tangible and intangible.
Many a times the noise in a space is the noise from the users of the space – talking, whispering, shouting, laughing etc. This noise can be compounded by other noise sources as well – for example, if patrons are seated close to the kitchen in a restaurant, the sound emanating from the kitchen will compel them to talk louder in order to hear each other. Sometimes mechanical and plumbing equipment can also lead to unwanted noise. The best example would be a hospital, where health of the patients can be jeopardized if there is a build-up of noise due to loud HVAC and plumbing systems. This distraction can easily affect the sleep of the patients and increase their recovery time.
Noises from external factors can also have a huge impact on the interior of the space. Depending on the type of materials and the construction techniques used, the noise of traffic can easily transmit through the exterior walls and can be a matter of concern for users of spaces adjoining major highways, roadways, railways or airports. Also, in case if the space is in a multi-used, shared building, then noise from the neighbouring occupants can also transmit through the walls between the two spaces.
As designers and space shapers we most often talk about how the space is affected by sound from sources outside but we do not consider the fact that the space being designed also will become a source from which sound will emanate, impacting the environment around and the adjacent neighbourhoods.
After listening in to Julian Treasure’s talk we concluded that as architects we need to be wary of sound – whether it is an office (interior) space or an urban space. The architecture of sound is actually invisible architecture; it is more about designing not the appearance but the experience so that we have spaces that sound as good as they look in order to improve our health and productivity along with our behaviour and overall well-being.
Muse MATTERS is a series of dialogues that as a studio we shall engage in– the purpose of the dialogues is for the studio to discuss matters, ask questions, share lessons learnt and may be in the process we can make a difference. Topics discussed shall not be restricted to the field of architecture and design necessarily; they could be about an experience, a journey, a comic strip and anything in between or beyond. We will use this space to share our thoughts and blurbs.