Week 15 Ben Leipholtz
Through the course of the semester I have gravitated towards analyzing a particular material and focusing on properties and applications of that material. For this entry I have decided to analyze a somewhat ignored aspect of architecture in studio; sound. I am an avid music fan, and as such I have particular interest in sound properties and acoustics within spaces. Sound is not a material in the same sense as concrete or wood, but it does posses characteristics that are equally important. Obviously sound is not completely ignored in the general architectural application. Codes exist to block exterior noise, interior walls often absorb extraneous and unwanted noise.
In more specific cases – like an auditorium – particular attention is paid to the details in form and material to reflect sound waves in just the right way. Perhaps this can be referred to as operative acoustic design; the space being shaped around the program. Auditoriums and concert halls employ sound baffles and absorbers to forge optimum acoustic characteristics. Contrast this with the idea of passive acoustic design, such as a living room with heavy drapes and upholstered furniture. The same principle applies in that elements of the design are used to alter the behavior of sound waves within a space.
Sound is not used as a material in either case. Sound is taken into consideration as a naturally occurring obstacle of sorts that must be worked around to satisfy the program. Interestingly enough, the materials used to control and absorb sound are generally the same whether installed in operative or passive systems. Sound baffles and acoustic absorption panels employed in operative systems compared to heavy cloth and dense foams used in passive systems. The biggest difference is how the user interacts with the space. In an operative space the user has preconceptions of how and why the space is designed, as much of the time it will be used for the same thing. In a passive system the user may not even consciously acknowledge the presence of sound manipulation devices as they are camouflaged as rather conspicuous entities.