There’s something about the saturated hues of blossoming springtime flowers and the fiery, warm tones of a sunset descending upon a cityscape that brings us joy. Humans crave color. In fact, we’ve been fascinated by them since the beginning of our existence. So much so that everything from the color of our clothes to the brightly illuminated pixels on this screen is an attempt to recreate –and enhance– the vibrant shades present in nature, finding in them a source of inspiration and vitality. Our brains are wired to link colors with sensations and experiences: the lush greens of a forest evoke feelings of tranquility and renewal, while the deep blues of the ocean stir a sense of mystery and adventure. It is this ability to elicit emotion that makes colors an invaluable tool for architects and designers –and which also explains why trends are moving away from the once-reigning neutral minimalism towards a more maximalist aesthetic that embraces pops of color, dimension and playful texture.
Acoustic Comfort: The Latest Architecture and News
The world's recent shift towards prioritizing wellness has influenced people to seek healthier lifestyles by understanding the body and the mind collectively. External factors such as the geographic location, the environment, the community, financial status, and the relationships with friends and family have all shown to have considerable impacts on an individual's health. However, it became evident that ensuring physical and mental health was not limited to having access to medical facilities and professional treatments, but was also determined by several factors related to the quality of the built environment.
Architects have a choice to design better and consequently, help people make better choices. So what is considered a good interior design, and what are the factors that make any interior space a good one? In this interior focus, we will explore this "good" side of design, looking at how architects ensured the needs of users by acknowledging accessibility, demographic diversity, economy, and the environment, regardless of aesthetic.
If you find yourself baffled by the confusing world of baffle paneling, don’t be concerned. That’s what they’re there for. The purpose of baffles of any kind – and where they take their name – is to confuse matter. In other industries, baffles are used to direct water flow, to control airflow and heat exchange, and to stop traffic from traveling too quickly.
When used in the scientific world of acoustics, baffles are positioned to disrupt sound waves by projecting out into our busiest environments, to catch, absorb and soften the sound, either in naturally noisy or specifically quiet areas or to selectively filter sounds from making a return journey. That doesn’t mean, however, that the slatted sight of regimental baffles can’t give an aesthetic advantage to interiors, providing often much-needed visual activity to an otherwise bare ceiling.
Acoustical comfort is a critical element of interior design that should never be neglected, especially in shared spaces such as restaurants, convention centers, museums, sports halls, and many others. Good acoustics can contribute to the occupants' well-being and productivity, while poor acoustics can lead to stress, fatigue, and even hearing damage. This can occur due to external noise, from various sound sources, or impacts (such as footsteps, jumping or moving furniture), but also due to the reflection of sound waves inside the environment, generating echoes and reverberations and reducing the intelligibility of speech in space.
Beyond their features in the world of fashion, fabrics can also be an essential part of an interior design’s creative possibilities. While enhancing the aesthetic appeal of a space, these versatile materials –made from fibers or yarn that have been interlaced, knitted, or bonded together– also provide functionality to space. As part of a holistic architectural strategy, these natural and synthetic elements are essential for designing upholstery for furniture, curtains and drapes, space divisions and wall coverings. Changing the traditional notion of fabrics –known as stain collectors, bug homes and easily catching fire– the latest design innovations are exploring properties which take the use of fabrics one step further. Diving into Architonic’s fabric catalog, we take a look at different products with distinctive acoustic, fireproof and repellent properties.
Higher noise emissions, higher wind loads and a desire for greater energy efficiency – the structural requirements for façades in multi-storey residential buildings and skyscrapers are becoming increasingly demanding, for both new builds and renovations. This is the result of the urban densification that is taking place in response to the acute lack of available housing and the more extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change.
What’s more important, work or wellbeing? Should we have to choose? A ‘good work ethic’ –as in placing work before all else– used to be a badge of honour, certainly among generation X-ers who grew up with post-war parents and a recession to wrestle with just as they were getting going on working life in the 1990s. Today’s economic situation might present similar wrangles in securing a wage among their off-spring, so-called generation Z, but it is nevertheless this emerging set of workers that are teaching the rest of us that work at any cost –particularly that of our mental and physical wellbeing– should not be a life ambition.
Every day, architects and designers tackle an ambitious task: crafting spaces that not only captivate the eye but that also nurture the health and well-being of those who inhabit them. A key part of this mission involves implementing design strategies that foster a pleasant indoor climate, as temperature, humidity and air quality all have a significant impact on users’ mood, productivity and overall health. Humans simply operate better if they are comfortable and content in their home or working environment. Although air-conditioning, ventilation and heating systems have conventionally served as popular solutions to regulate indoor climate, they often carry with them undesirable consequences –the presence of dust and bacteria, the need for regular maintenance and a cluttered, unappealing look. There is, however, an alternative solution.
Stabilized Aluminum Foam is a unique looking material that combines the aesthetics of aluminum (its texture, shades and brightness) with a spongy, porous appearance. It is produced by injecting air into a cast aluminum alloy with stabilizing agents, which after curing, creates a porous and lightweight, yet highly resistant and rigid cellular structure. Because of its mechanical and thermal properties, it is particularly useful in applications in various industries, such as automotive, aerospace and marine, especially for energy absorption, thermal insulation, and sound dampening.
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.
Even if you have never engaged with the ins and outs of a building’s acoustics, you will, no doubt, have had many a meeting or passing conversation eased by Rockfon’s sound-absorbing solutions. They may have invisibly clad a ceiling above you in tile form or seamlessly formed the white walls that surrounded you. Rockfon – a part of Rockwool Group – specialises in banishing acoustic bounce with sound absorbing products made from organic stone wool. The products have been part of the fabric of our public spaces – offices, schools, restaurants and libraries – for more than 60 years.
The noisier the environment, the harder it is to concentrate on the sounds we really want –and need– to hear. We spend about 90% of our time indoors, either at home or at work, often with little concern for acoustic qualities, making our body remain in a constant warning state. In offices this is an even more critical issue. While traditional open plan working spaces encourage teamwork and effective communication, many professionals face the challenge of being able to concentrate with the frequent noises, whether from a nearby conversation, the construction site next door, or a noisy espresso machine. Among the problems that noise pollution can cause in the human body are stress, accelerated heartbeat, increased blood pressure, insomnia, and a constant state of vigilance. Studies also show that poor acoustics negatively affect productivity.
This can be further amplified by the environment itself, often composed of "hard" surfaces (masonry, concrete, glass) that reverberate sound several times over, making it necessary for people to raise their voices to be understood. Furthermore, acoustic devices are generally perceived as accessories that are not very aesthetically pleasing, often with clumsy designs and with little or no flexibility.
The Sydney Opera House has reopened its largest performance space, the Concert Hall. Since the venue closed for renovations in February 2020, the space has undergone extensive renovations to improve the acoustic performance, enhance access for people with mobility needs, and upgrade the staging systems. The renovation process respects the original interiors, while better equipping the hall to present a wide range of performances. This is the largest and final project in the Opera House’s Decade of Renewal, a 10-year program of renovation works totaling almost $300 million to upgrade the World Heritage-listed monument ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2023.
At the Four Seasons restaurant in New York, designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe in the iconic Seagram Building, a rectangular pool played the leading role in the space, highlighted by four trees planted in pots at each of the vertices. The soft noise made by the water became consecrated. In addition to giving the hall some personality, it served to absorb the sounds of conversations (often secret) among tables. Just as the way that light enters a space, or how interior landscapes are perceived, sound is one more characteristic of an environment, though it is generally overlooked by architects. This goes beyond providing it with efficient acoustics, but creating a sound atmosphere for a space. This is the concept of soundscape.
We talk a lot about sound treatment for architecture but normally for new projects. In projects that are already built, either a rented apartment or small commercial space, we often have to deal with noises that we can't control, affecting our physical and mental health. In this article, we explore practical tips on how to manage and reduce these noises and improve the quality and atmosphere of these environments.
Acoustic comfort is affected by the levels and the nature of the sound experienced in an interior space, measured in decibels. The functionality and aesthetics of working and living spaces are usually the primary focus of the designer, however, too often overlooked, are the factors contributing to the productivity of employees or the comfort of residents. Providing a comfortable acoustic environment contributes significantly to the overall mood and health of people operating within it.