Acoustic Composition / Nicolas Dorval-Bory + Raphaël Bétillon

Acoustic Composition / Nicolas Dorval-Bory + Raphaël Bétillon
© Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

Nicolas Dorval-Bory & Raphaël Bétillon have recently been awarded second prize for their design of a hotel in Jurmala, Latvia. The duo may sound familiar, as last year, we featured their artificial landscape of clouds which created an experiential journey along the banks of the Garonne in Toulouse. For their latest project, Dorval-Bory and Bétillon have studied the relationship between the city and music and sound, to experiment with a gradation from the most structured musical composition to nature’s acoustic chaos by way of an architectural point of view.

More about the hotel design after the break.

Historically, Jurmala’s natural landscape has served as a place of tranquility for its visitors, and musicians regularly enjoy its calm to create new works and to perform for the public.  The site also offers a particular sound environment, “It’s not absolute silence, but a soothing pink noise background combining the wind in the pines, the waves breaking on the sand, and sometimes vocalizations of seagulls,” explained the architects.

© Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

The project calls for a strict grid of 6.60 meters to act as a musical score and offer guidance for spatial decisions.  This grid serves as “the equal temperament tuning of our project, a spatial and rational division to guide our notes.”  Compositionally, the design is governed by a strong organizing principle, structured around a hollow volume.  The central void, which is defined by 6 trapezoids orientated in all directions, maintains the notion of sound as a vector without a defined programmed.  The hotel program then develops inside the void with public areas around the central void, and hotel rooms around the periphery in a rational and regular way.

Axonometric © Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

In order to channel, reverberate and direct a pure selected sound wave, white marble with a perfectly smooth surface is used in several parts of the building, particularly in the central void. The trapezoidal shape amplifies and broadcast the sounds produced inside it and captures the sounds on one side of the building and reissues them on the other side.  ”This way the building is no longer an obstacle to environmental noise, but a distorting lens, reverberating and channeling acoustic waves like a mirror,” explained the architects.

Material Study © Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

To capture sound, wedge shapes composed of anechoic foam trap any noise and to simulate a vacuum or absence of echo. “In our hotel rooms, the atmosphere is only designed with this idea in mind, creating an anechoic space punctuated by reverberating marble functional objects, such as the shower block or table…Eyes closed, it is impossible to guess the shape of the space in which we are, it is more of an abstract place, a somewhat unreal and literally unheard spatial and acoustic experience.” One accesses the buiding through a horizontal fault down the stairs. In this low level, the lobby welcomes the tourist in a mineral and minimum atmosphere in a telluric in-between space, an informal belt around a patio that hints at the large hollow cross right above. From this level, four vertical circulations lead to other floors. In each of them, the stairs and elevators are connected to the rest of the program through a corridor that surrounds the marble hollow core.

© Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

At the terrace, leisure programs such as restaurant, a conference room and the spa fit in the four corners. A small pool is also included in the terrace. On top of that big void, four auditoriums face each other, separated by the central void, offering a free space that can be used as art and music gallery.

Terrace © Dorval-Bory + Bétillon

“As a true musical composition, playing on both culturally defined tuning system and physical specificity of the acoustic wave, our project is developing an architectural language in which these invisible dimensions take shape. Indeed, the wide scale binary rhythm and structure support for infinite modulations, logical variations made of counterpoints and harmonies. The architecture of the hotel doesn’t serve here a formal purpose. In this project it is truly about an acoustic composition of space,” concluded the architects.

© Dorval-Bory + Bétillon


Type : Music themed hotel

Competition – 2nd prize

Location : Jurmala, Latvia


9500 m²

Client : Hotelliesma

Architect : BETILLON / DORVAL-BORY (Nicolas Dorval-Bory & Raphaël Bétillon)

Assistants : Erin Durno, Julie Arnaud

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About this author
Cite: Karen Cilento. "Acoustic Composition / Nicolas Dorval-Bory + Raphaël Bétillon" 02 Nov 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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