Review of NYTimes Article – Dear Architects: Sound Matters

Kudos to Michael Kimmelman for his article on why sound should matter to architects (Dear Architects: Sound Matters). Sound is an often over-looked but no less crucial aspect of building design. However, I couldn’t help but notice the article didn’t include the opinion of someone who works with architectural sound for a living. As an acoustical consultant, I spend a significant amount of time making a case for the benefits of good sound in all types of environments.

Reverberation is something doesn’t always get much attention in building design, outside of performance halls, theaters, and recording studios. To an extent, I agree with Renzo Piano that “we need reverberation” in our lives. Having spent time working in an Anechoic Chamber, which is a room where nearly all reverberation has been eliminated, I can tell you that it can be a disquieting experience (pun intended). But there are also many situations where reverberation can be problematic, such as in learning environments or areas where public address is a matter of life safety. Good acoustic design lies in understanding the distinction of what type of acoustic environment is appropriate for the use of the space.

So when Ricardo Scofidio said “the process of making models and drawings doesn’t allow for it,” I felt compelled to share that there are in fact computer modeling programs available for this very purpose. 3-D architectural models can be imported directly into an acoustic “ray-tracing” program, or a model can be created from scratch using floor plans and elevation drawings. In fact, you can even listen to the sound of a space prior to that space being built! In this way, the anticipated sound of the space can become a real, demonstrable thing during design, enabling architects to make important decisions regarding room geometry or finishes that may affect the acoustical outcome.

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