Introduction We hear numerous types of sounds, from the sound of ouralarm in the morning to the voices of the people we encounter, everyday of ourlives. Sometimes we have a choice on whether or not we want to choose to hearsounds such as when we’re sitting down in a crowded room it tends to getnoisier therefore we’d put on our headphones and listen to some music to blockout the outside noise. However, in most situations we don’t always have theluxury to control the sounds we hear. For example, if you’re in your workplacesitting in your desk, concentrating to finish your deadline and unfortunatelythe room behind you happens to be the lounge area and the wall separating youand that room was poorly designed and ‘paper thin’ you would be able to hearevery loud conversation. As Janning stated “In today’s architecturalenvironment, good acoustical design isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity.
Acoustics impacts everything from employee productivity in office settings toperformance quality in auditoriums to the market value of apartments,condominiums and single-family homes” 1 But not all sounds are annoying unwanted noises that we wishto block out, sometimes the sounds we hear, we want to amplify as if we want towhole world to listen to it as well. For instance, as a music enthusiast Ipersonally love to listen to music in full volume through my headphones but what’seven better than that is going to a live concert in a stadium where the soundis amplified as this evokes a different feeling and experience as it would incomparison if I were to listen to it in my room, with headphones, alone. Itsfascinating how a stadium is designed so intricately to bounce the sound backto the audience where you would feel the bass of the music pounding in yourchest, hear the cheers of the crowd ringing in your ears and leaving you in aeuphoric state whereas if you would be hearing this same noises in a place orsituation that’s not a live concert the loud voices of a crowd would be leavingyou in an irritated state rather than euphoric. With that in mind, controlling the sound can affect theenvironment and atmosphere of a space whether it be outdoor or indoor. Thedesign of controlling the sound in a space should cater to the needs of theusers, for example designing a recording studio would be much more differentthan if you would be designing an auditorium, as a studio would require a verylow ambient sound level inside a recording booth to successfully record a soundwithout external noises.
Designing for sound control in a studio doesn’t stopwithin the confines of the recording booths but also the actual building itselfas external noise climates like traffic, road works, etc. should also be takeninto consideration. “The acoustical design of studios requires careful attentionto detail” 2 That being said, in this dissertation, I would be touchingon the topics of ways to control sound in architecture and why it is importantwhile also showing different situations on how it helps. I have chosen threecase studies to back up and help paint a clearer picture about these topics.First one being St. Paul’s Cathedral’s Whispering Gallery, though this casestudy is not musically influenced it’s intriguing concept of echoing a whisper fromone wall to another is certainly compelling on how well the designer thoughtout how to control the sound of the whisper would travel in such way.
Secondcase study is the Danish Music Museum or better knows as the Sonorous Museum inDenmark from the architects of Creo Arkitekter A/S and Adept. Where the “Buildingmaterials and textures can accentuate very specific sounds… has shaped,perforated and padded each room’s timber-lined walls to enhance the sounds ofstrings, brass, percussion or a full orchestra in the space.” 3 Andthe last case study is the Elbphilharmonie by the architect Herzog and DeMeuron where the concert hall is described as “supreme mastery of acoustics” 4 by CharlesJenks on an architectural review. Architectural Acoustics “I am convinced that it isthe responsibility of the architect, to design acoustics that fit the functionand match the architectural concept for a design question, and that although itcan be a real challenge, it can be a powerful tool to create the atmosphere anarchitect has in mind.” 5 ArchitecturalAcoustics is the science of controlling sound in buildings. TheThree Acoustical “tools” Thesetools are not necessarily physical tools but rather a representation of theacoustical properties and interactive behaviour of various surface materials.
These three acoustical tools translate into materials and applicationtechniques that can be used to manage how sound behaves and travels in an enclosedspace. Diffusion Diffusionis when sound is projected onto a surfaces it is then reflected back intothousands of tiny reflections of the sound, effectively scattering it in alldirections. “Sounddiffusion in a room is the condition of having a uniform sound level distributionthroughout the room.
This is desirable in all rooms used for speech or music…Ifa space lacks diffusion, the sound will have an uneven quality making itdifficult for musicians to hear one another.” 6 Absorptions Absorptionis when the sound that hits a surface is not reflected back. This can beachieved with materials for instance, porous absorbers like acoustical tiles,carpets etc. or panel absorbers such as wood panels, perforated panels etc. ButAbsorption is not always necessarily achieved with only using materials withabsorption properties.
In fact, there are natural ways in which sound is provento be absorbed as recognised by Vern Oliver Knudsen. Knudsen discovered that”humidity of the air in the chambers had a marked effect on their reverberationtime” 7 Knudsen further explains that “the dependence of airabsorption on the proportion of water vapour present could be interpreted interms of the rate of adjustments of the internal equilibrium between vibratingand non-vibrating oxygen molecules…the presence of small concentrations ofwater molecules shifts the absorption band to higher frequencies. In practice,at normal room temperatures and humidities, this absorption of sound due torelaxation of oxygen molecules.” 7.5 Reflection Reflectionis when a sound hits a surfaces such as a wall or a floor and it is thenreflected back into the space. However, it is different if a sound is reflectedon a flat smooth surface in comparison to a surface that is convex. If thesound is reflected onto a convex shaped space the sound would be dispersed morerapidly in comparison to if sound was to reflect from a flat surface. Examplesof reflective materials are concrete, tiles, glass, woods and metals.
“Ifthe early reflections reach the ears of the listeners from the sides, thisenhances the three-dimensional acoustic impressions.” 8 Case Study One: Whispering Gallery .St Paul’s Cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren was aniconic cathedral as it was the tallest building in London at the time of itsconstruction in 1675.
It took almost 35 years to complete the construction. Thedome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the Whispering Gallery is located, is alsoone of the largest domes in the world.
Its architectural design was inspiredfrom ancient basilica architectures; it is a type of building that was used bythe Romans for jurisdictional purposes but then later on adopted by Christiansand used them as a place of religious worshiping. There are multiple Whispering Galleries across the globe butone of the most famous and known one especially for us Londoners is theWhispering Gallery in the mezzanine level that runs around the interior of thedome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
From the ground it is approximately 30 m high and34 m wide and it is reached by walking up roughly 300 steps from the ground.Therefore, to experience this you must be willing to climb all of those stepsand apparently a great deal of people prepared to do so as the WhisperingGallery attracts visitors not only those who are local and live here in the UKmuch less in London, but also people all over the world travel and come andswing by as they too are impressed with the idea of being able to whisper to awall and have it be heard by someone else on the other side of the wall. Thoughit seems like its a ludicrous idea to whisper to an inanimate object its notsuch a bizarre thing if its explained to people the acoustical properties ofthe materials used in the interior walls of the gallery that help the soundstravel in such a controlled way, in terms of instead of the sound being absorbedthe sound is carried by waves and travels along the circumference of theinterior walls. Amongst the many Whispering Galleries across the world thereis a known ‘natural’ Whispering Gallery in South Australia, the BarossaReservoir. It is 118 feet tall and holds almost 4, 500 litres of water. It wasoriginally built to supply water and what the designers didn’t know was thehidden acoustic properties of the dam. The hard and curved surface allows soundto travel from one end to another much like the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’sCathedral but in a much more larger scale. “The voices can be heard quiteclearly due to a phenomenon known as the parabola effect.
The wall is soperfectly curved that it forms one sector of a circle. And the sound waves justbounce in a series of straight jumps all the way to the other end.” 9 Although Whispering Galleries are up for debate whether thedesigners intended for people to whisper onto a wall and have it travel to theopposite side or not it is still an impressive way to show how sound can becontrolled with the use of specific materiality and design regardless if it wasintentional or not Case Study Two: Sonorous Museum “Amuseum that revisits the relationship between architecture and acoustic” 10 The Danish Music Museum or also known as the ‘SonorousMuseum’ was opened to the public in 2014 with its new refurbished exhibitionspaces, done by Adept, with its design and aesthetic is inspired by architectVilhelm Lauritzen as Lauritzen was the original architect of the building. Adeptwanted to preserve and respect the original buildings scheme all the whileadding a contemporary twist to it. Apart from the new exhibition spaces, whichcomprises glass boxes and open tableaus that showcases a collection ofhistorical instruments that dates back to the bronze ages which was around 2000BC to instruments that we have now, the most remarkable part of the museum isthe four very thought out and detailed sound spaces that is part of the museumseducational program.
These four spaces are different from each other in termsof its purpose acoustically while visually it all ties in together as they’reall clad in wood veneer which was designed “to create the optimal acousticsetting for each instrumental configuration” 10.5 With the whole concept of the museum being to highlight the’complex’ relationship of architecture and acoustics, it has done just thatwith the four studio spaces by installing perforated and panelled woodwork linein all four acoustic studio rooms. These perforated acoustic wood panels helpreduce noise levels projected and also help decrease sound reverberation withinthe whole building therefore if in one of the rooms is a string player and inthe other room is a percussion player both sides of the party wouldn’t bedisturbed as the sounds are absorbed by the perforated panels thus centralisingthe sound waves. Though it’s typically thought out that perforated acousticpanels are only used in relation to recording studios where it helps get aclean and crisp recording of a sound and also because it’s a must but that isnot always the case. In the Sonorous Museum its used partly for itsaesthetically pleasing appearance but more of its purpose of letting the playersconnect, concentrate and hear the sounds that they play better without thedisturbance of the visitors of the museum viewing the collection of instrumentsin display. The wood panels would also add privacy and a sense of intimacy inthe space.
“The exhibitiondesign is build up around the guest’s physical movement through musical history- a movement communicated in a delicate balance between exhibited objects andinstruments, graphic illustrations and listening stations interacting with themuseum guest.” 11 Case Study Three: Elbphilharmonie “Music in a concert hall sounds better than at anoutdoor festival…and it’s one of hundreds of laws of acoustics – a complex mixof geometry, architecture, physics and neuro science – that must be mastered tomake a hall sound beautiful.” 12 The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany is designed by architects Herzog & DeMeuron. It is critically acclaimed by Mark Swed from the La Times as the worlds”most imposing concert hall” 13 and title it as the “sound of thefuture”. 13.5 The main focus of this building is the Grand ConcertHall as it has the main star which is the ‘Coral Cave’, the coral cave is thegiant reflector in the center of the main hall it has a surface of 250 m2guarantees a flawless and perfect sound distribution throughout the concerthall and the ceiling, walls and balustrades itself compromises of 10,000off-white ivory coloured acoustic panels.
With that combined, this gives theultimate perfect musical listening experience. Evendistribution of sound in a concert hall is a key element when you’re going tosee a concert or what ever type of performance it may be. Bear in mind thatpeople spend a lot of money to go and watch musical performances and it wouldbe a shame if you ended up sitting at the back row and not be able to hear themusic when you’ve paid a lot for it, right? Not only that but it is alsoimperative for performers especially orchestra players to have good reflectorsin the space as this ensures early sound reflection helping them hear eachother properly and effectively, they wouldn’t want to be in the position wherethe woodwind players are playing at a different pace than the string playerswhen they’re meant to be synchronised because again that would be adisappointment to the people who paid a great deal of money to see the show asthey would be expecting a perfect harmonious performance and instead they get adisoriented mess.
All in all, the whole building itself isimpressive as Herzog & De Meuron intricately designed everything inside andout. From the exterior design of the building, the glass façade panelsmodernising and keeping up with the architectures in these eras. To the curvingglass walls that separates the outdoors to the main reception area, to even theother halls, apart from the main concert hall of course, such as the recitalhall with its shoebox shape that was covered with wooden contoured walls. Ittruly is a building that embodies a perfect and ideal concert hall.
“The key to improving the acoustics of a concerthall lies in getting a better mix of ‘direct sound’ – which comes to your earstraight from the stage, and ‘reflected sound’ which travels to listeners viawalls, the ceiling and other surfaces. Because reflected sound travels further,it reaches your ear a fraction of a second later. The reflections depend on theshape of the room and where you and the performers are sitting.” 12.5 In Conclusion, controlling sound in architecture is morethan just adding a few panels in a room and calling it a day. It is morethought out and carefully planned as it involves science and maths all in one.
Soundcontrol in architecture is essential especially if the function of the spacehas a lot of sound production whether it be intentional or inevitable i.e. ifits intentional, a space like a recording studio would be a good example ofwhen sound control would be necessary as its needed to create a good quality ofsound recording while an example of inevitable sound production would be aplace much more public much like a school as there would only be so much doneto minimise and control the sound emitted such as the noise of the students inthe hallways but also other noise factors that would have to be considered likeexternal disturbances much like traffic. Regardless of its complexity, control over sound can have anaffect on the environment and atmosphere of a space. Multiple projections ofdiverse sounds can rearrange an overall feel or emotion to the space withoutinhibiting it. This constant rearrangement of sound is always changing how wefeel and perceive a space unless acoustic practices are specifically engineeredand catered to the idiosyncratic specifications of the building. Thusreiterating the matter of sound control in architecture can not only enhancesound, amplify sound but also have an effect on the mentality of humans likeyou and me. “According to the architect Peter Zumthor, architecturalquality is, at least for him, when a building moves him, which he describes asatmosphere.
1 This is experienced with all the senses together. Most of the timeit seems that the architecture is designed regarding the eyes only. Butaccording to some architects, one of our most important senses for the perceivingof space, dimensions and material, besides the eyes, are the ears.” 14