Noises –especially those we can’t control– greatly affect both physical and mental health. Whether coming from the street, upstairs neighbors or the room next door, research suggests that these can raise stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communications and contribute to developing issues such as high blood pressure. Ultimately, sound quality defines user experience and (literally) sets the tone for the rest of the interior. The bad news is that most conventional building materials used today in modern architecture –concrete, glass, masonry– have extremely hard surfaces and limited acoustic properties, reverberating sound several times over and forcing users to raise their voices to be understood. Coupled with growing urban density and projects adopting a mixed-use layout, all of this results in increasingly noisy, uncomfortable and distracting living and working environments.
Enhancing acoustics, aesthetics and well-being
Although the risks are clear, the invisible threat of noise pollution tends to be overlooked in interior design. A lot of times, this is due to the fact that acoustic products like sound-absorbing panels are generally perceived as not very aesthetically pleasing, often clashing with a building’s style and offering little to no flexibility. The good news, however, is that this lack of balance between acoustic performance, appearance and visual comfort can be addressed through good design. Kvadrat Acoustics, for instance, takes on the mission by pushing the aesthetic and technological boundaries of soundproofing devices. How? By offering customisable panel solutions that enhance aesthetic quality, productivity and well-being while tackling the acoustic challenges of modern architecture.
In collaboration with designers, the Danish company develops a wide range of acoustic panels, textiles and systems for walls and ceilings that are characterised by their timeless aesthetic, durability and versatility. They are available in any freeform shape and over 200 textile colors, enabling various creative possibilities and adapting to changing needs without compromising appearance. At the same time, sustainability is promoted during every stage, from design and fabrication to long-term life span. Each component can be reduced, reused and recycled to maximize circularity, resource efficiency and overall environmental and human well-being.
Optimizing aural and visual comfort in a floating structure
Kvadrat Acoustic solutions are suitable for numerous settings, including work, education, care, recreation and culture. In fact, they have already been put to the test in a series of architectural applications with different aesthetic, functional and acoustic challenges. One of the most complex and innovative is the new Salmon Eye project, an offshore interactive exhibition area and art installation commissioned by Eide Fjordbruk AS that explores sustainability in the aquaculture industry and integrates acoustic panels across its interior.
Completed this fall, the venue emerges –like a glistening pebble– from the waters of the Hardanger Fjord, located in southwest Norway. The floating exhibition space is only accessible by boat and is designed to inform visitors about aquaculture and the future of the seafood industry. Through an immersive audiovisual experience, it seeks to educate guests and inspire them to discuss sustainable seafood practices, fish farming and the importance of protecting the sea and its species. As its name suggests, the curved design was based on the shape of a salmon eye and has a circular opening on top.
Kvadrat Acoustics installed 800 Soft Cells panels that clad the ceiling and walls of the entire ellipsoid interior as one continuous surface, seamlessly integrating openings for sprinklers, lights and other surfaces. Following the building’s sustainability mission, these are made with recycled aluminium, can be re-upholstered and their components reused as often as required. Each panel is covered in custom textile with a dark to light gradient from the base to the top of the venue and is tensioned to withstand humidity or other climatic conditions. In addition, to guarantee consistent angles and a uniform 3 mm gap between the panels, the team created a bespoke rail-based substructure –which also works to simplify maintenance and demounting.
During the initial development phase, Kvadrat Acoustics relied on a 3D model that employed regularly updated 3D scan data from the building site, as well as prototypes and mock-ups. As a result, the technological integration resulted in the creation of groups of repeating panel shapes in combination with 250 unique panels, each precisely following features within the building (such as around windows). This enabled the Soft Cells acoustic panels to follow the irregular structural rhythm of the building, ensuring seamless precision even when covering complex geometries. Altogether, the acoustic system works to optimize aural and visual comfort, enhancing users’ experience as they explore the issues surrounding global aquaculture.
Regardless of their size, shape and complexity, modern buildings must integrate efficient acoustic solutions to foster well-being in increasingly noisier surroundings. And, of course, it is important to remember that these don’t have to be aesthetically unappealing; in fact, as is the case of the Salmon Eye project, the right acoustic panels can ultimately add to a building’s appearance, style and mission.