Acoustic Signatures: Their study, representation, and agency in the experience of architectural spaces.
Architecture’s strategy for dealing with acoustics through noise control and room acoustics is reductive. Noise control measures are not selective, which causes its application to lack in nuance and to result in poor auditory experiences. The program-driven optimization of sound only works in mathematically calculated circumstances, which are impossible to meet and recreate identically every time the space is used. This also makes for acoustically uninteresting experience when the space is used for anything other than what it was designed for, leaving no room for the impromptu or the unplanned. Moreover, both approaches require a great deal of resources to design and fabricate, which makes architectural acoustics inaccessible to many. Both approaches also disregard the vast majority of auditory experiences, which are unique, unplanned, and imperfect. I’m interested in engaging that majority of sounds, and their inevitable agency on our interactions with the built world, in the architectural design process.
An acoustic signature is the inherent relationship between a space’s size, form, and material composition, and one’s experience of sound within it.
Cathedrals have a recognizable acoustic signature. They are highly reverberant, and they produce echo. That echo, instead of being dampened, was utilized in the spiritual quality of religious experiences and triggered the development of the organ and Gregorian chants. Acoustic signatures have not been planned or designed. They are the byproduct of current construction practices and programmatic requirements. For example, tile, mirrors, porcelain tubs, and glass shower doors are elements commonly found in bathrooms. Consequently, bathrooms are reverberant. Musicians and singers enjoy practicing in bathrooms because of their acoustic signatures. They already exist. They are strong agents in our experiencing of architectural spaces. As byproducts of means of construction, they are common and malleable. I am proposing to engage sound in the design of space through the representation, study, and creation of acoustic signatures.