Soundscape Architecture: A New Way to Experience Famous Buildings

There are many forms of architectural representation - from sketches to construction drawings to photographs - but they all privilege vision over any of the other senses. This problem has perhaps only been exacerbated by the internet, which has made it easier to 'experience' buildings from afar, to the detriment of four of the five senses.

Now though, Karen Van Lengen, the Kenan Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia, has created Soundscape Architecture, a website that aims to redress this imbalance. In collaboration with artist James Welty and musician Troy Rogers, Van Lengen has used sound recordings of iconic architectural spaces to create synaesthetic animations and musical compositions of the ambient noise there.

Read on after the break for more about Soundscape Architecture

A screenshot of the animation for The Rockefeller Center. Image Courtesy of Sounscape Architecture

"We don’t study how to listen in architecture, which has been promoted as a visual field since the Renaissance", said Van Lengen in an interview with Urban Omnibus. "My ambition with Soundscape Architecture is not to show how to design for sound but to show people how to listen."

A screenshot of the animation for the New York Public Library. Image Courtesy of Sounscape Architecture

The entry point to Soundscape Architecture is comprised of a virtual street, lined with iconic buildings. The ambient noise of each building is projected onto the street, and as you 'walk' past, you can quickly compare the unique auditory atmosphere of each building, from the 'oceanic' buzz of New York's Grand Central Terminal to the New York Public Library, a quiet hum punctured by scraping chairs and footsteps.

The Diagram of the Guggenheim Museum's recorded space. Image Courtesy of Sounscape Architecture

'Entering' the buildings gives a more in-depth study of their sound, with an interpretive animation and musical composition; a diagram details the shape and location of the space, the surface materials which help to create the sound, and the number of people that contribute to this atmosphere.

A screenshot of the animation for Grand Central. Image Courtesy of Sounscape Architecture

Van Lengen is generating a sense of space and time which is often lost in purely visual depictions of buildings. "Sound is an intersection of the container of a space and the people in it, and that intersection is never the same," she says.

About this author
Cite: Rory Stott. "Soundscape Architecture: A New Way to Experience Famous Buildings" 23 Feb 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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