How can sound define architecture? Should we include sound design in the design process of a specific space? How would spaces be if they did have no sound? Should we consider audition an auxiliary sense for the vision?
In a world where Architecture is focused on the visual experience of design, we must step away and ask us if there is another way we can design and define spaces.
During my second year of university, I have designed a project which was based around the idea of sound and space. The space I designed was in fact a result from the way I wanted it to work and feel in terms of acoustics and ambient. I placed the sound experience as a priority and complemented it with the visual experience, rather than the opposite route.
We, as humans, tend not to feel or notice most of the sounds and feelings contained in spaces. It's unconscious, our mind triggers an automatic response to these details, just like breathing.
As designers we are not trained to experience with sound nor design it in our minds and projects, maybe because, we grow up with the idea that audition complements our vision, as secondary sense. But what happens if we reverse it? When we are asked to remember about a specific place, one of the first things that comes to our minds is the way it sounds, again, unconsciously.
Our senses tend to record every information of our surroundings, and we seem to only focus on the sight. For instance, when I get asked about a train station in London(which for me, really are peculiar places with rich atmospheres, ambients and sounds), the things that come to my mind are:
Echoed, reverberated and low frequenced train announcements
Different shoes making different noises on the floor
High Reverbed areas
Constant crowd noise
Train wheels grinding against the iron rail
Metal train doors with rubbered edges opening and closing
Plastic suitcase's wheels rolling
Bright, Dynamic sounds
On this specific case, I might in fact have more rememberable information about the way the space sounds, rather than the way it looks. And all those details can provide us, designers and architects a lot of information about the space dimensions, materiality, occupation, environment, vibe etc.
Spaces without sound are just like a movie with no volume, it becomes a distorted experience, and funny, at times.
There is a direct link between the way the space design looks and the sounds that exist within them, even though it tends to be forgotten and unexplored.
Myself, as a sound designer/music artist, and also an aspiring architect/architecture technician had the need to bring a bit of my both worlds together. I believe that the world and process of design is universal, regardless of the subject, therefore, my creation process for sound and space a similar in terms of stages, being the tools used what establishes a difference between them. So, I have been producing sound tracks for my Architecture projects. These soundtracks are able to place us on the space, even though they do not exist in real life. It became, for me, a much more efficient way of displaying the spaces I am designing. At the end of day, what is a space without the sounds that come with it? It's a soul-less place.
Architecture sound, just like cinema and scoring soundtracks, allows us to feel some way, and create a certain feeling towards a certain space. The breeze and wave sounds from the beach, the moving chairs on the soft flooring, the noise of bags of crisps in the office, the reverbed sound in a toilet, the echo in a cathedral.
Maybe by reverting the actual design process which places vision as the primary experience, and consider our audition as our main sense, we could open a whole new window of opportunities for space design, where the physical features of the space follow a specific type of sound atmosphere imagined and projected for it. By using the power of sound to put us in a specifc mood and/or place, we could give the first steps towards a new kind of experimental architecture and study of the mind.
From the way the doors sound, the floor knocks, the ceiling reverb works, or the birds outside the windows sing, the thickness and materiality of the walls allow certain sound properties; How can we add a specific feeling to our spaces? Can/Should we be in control of it?
Design should involve every sense in our body.
Let's step back from the visual, and start experiencing sound spaces.