Architecture professor, Karen Van Lengen, presented her collaborative project, Soundscape Architecture, which is designed to explore the intersection of space and sound. Working with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), Van Lengen replicated authentic sounds that resonate within major artistic and impressive locations around the world, including the National Library of Ireland, the Taj Mahal, the New York Public Library, and Charlottesville’s own Academical Village.
This project combines Van Lengen’s efforts with those of Worthy Martin of IATH, artist James Welty, and musician Troy Rogers; and intends to express something often overlooked in the world of architecture – sound. Transforming space, sound acts on people in subtle ways, and while inevitably combining with space before the whole of any project is complete, it often comes as an afterthought to other elements of architectural design.
“This was something to express the role of sound in an environment that is more tangible to designers,” said Van Lengen during the presentation. “We never talk about it in architecture school. We don’t talk about what sound means in an interior space.”
The project contains many aspects, including artistic renderings of soundscapes by students of UVa’s Architecture School, soundscape inspired compositions by Rogers, and vibrant visual animations synchronized with the sounds–all centered around 60-second representative sound clips from each location.
The visualizations call attention to and underscore the sounds within soundscapes that might otherwise go unnoticed. They show how sounds assert themselves, coalesce as they interact, and disperse throughout a designed space. Specifically, the visualization of the Rockefeller Center’s soundscape shows how sudden and harsh noises can shatter the laminar effect of widespread echoes, and follows the arc of a woman’s shoes as they tap across hard surfaces.
Van Lengen also expressed that these renditions of soundscapes do not instruct how sound should used in space, but explore how sounds can be effective. “It’s not that you can find the right sounds this way,” she said. “But you begin to understand them.”
By considering what role sound takes in interior design through various angles, all contributors to the project re-imagine what sound can do, and how we can manage it aesthetically. As a whole, the project illuminates how sound immerses people in the space they inhabit, and that careful attention to sound can beautifully transform designed space. And more than that, it suggests a celebration of sound itself.