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Sound and school design from three architects’ point-of-view

In this post, we have collated three architects’ views on the role of sound in designing school buildings.

The listening architect

Architects focus on sight, as this has been quoted by giants such as Aristotle, Vitruvius, Palladio and Corbusier as “the noblest of all arts”. In other words, sight has been perceived by many as the most powerful sense. According to architect Richard Mazuch however, vision is overrated. As he explains it;

“Vision is directional, hearning is omnidirectional. Sight isolates, sound incorporates. Eyes reach out, ears receive” (Richard Mazuch, 2012).

Architects are sculptors of mass and space in all of its forms; social, public, internal, external.  What might be forgotten is that all spaces have signature sounds. In fact, the major protagonist of a space is sound!

Mazuch views sound as an invisible ping-pong ball that journeys through space, which carries information and decays on adjacent surfaces. Within a space, other senses and characters, such as smells and pheromones, temperature, moisture, water vapour, pollen, asbestos and dust, engage in a dialogue with sound and affect how sound moves, and thus impact on the way we learn and absorb information.Both pleasant and unpleasant sounds affect how we learn through their impact on the body; on the autonomic nervous system, limbic system, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, respiration rate and heart rate, and on the hormone release. The ongoing multi-sensory dialogue shows, for example, that colour can alter the perception of sound, just as it can alter the perception of temperature and the sense of time. Sound can alter taste sensation, and you can feel a reverberant sound as it goes through your body.

Both pleasant and unpleasant sounds affect how we learn through their impact on the body; on the autonomic nervous system, limbic system, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, respiration rate and heart rate, and on the hormone release. The ongoing multi-sensory dialogue shows, for example, that colour can alter the perception of sound, just as it can alter the perception of temperature and the sense of time. Sound can alter taste sensation, and you can feel a reverberant sound as it goes through your body.

Listen to Richard Mazuch speak about the importance of sound in architecture below.

The psychology of sound

Whilst architects are visual artists who create spaces and experiences, they need to use their ears since architecture also has sound.

Places need to have a good atmosphere, because as Dorte says; “We feel a room.” We expect a certain atmosphere from different rooms and sound is a big part in creating that mood. Taking acoustics and the psychology of sound into consideration is of great importance when designing buildings.

Listen to Dorte Kristensen speak about the psychology of sound in architecture below.

“How beautiful it is to be an architect and design the conversation in a room”

When designing a school, it is important to consider the interaction that will take place between the speaker and the listener. The designer needs to pay attention to the role a school plays; making it possible for students to remember. To remember, you need different rooms and emotions, different colours and shapes, and character.

It is not necessarily so that knowledge is gained in the classroom at all times; it might be in the hallway, or in the canteen. In a modern school, a student should be able to pick his or her own space, and therefore there should be different alternatives available. As architect Kenneth Gärdestad explains, a modern school environment it is not just about learning, but also about creating an environment where they thrive.

Listen to architect Kenneth Gärdestad and his view on the architecture of a modern school below.

This post has shared some of the thoughts on architects’ views on design and sound, which were presented at the Sound Education seminars in 2012. The seminars were held in four different cities: Copenhagen, London, Münich and Stockholm. You can watch all the presentations here.

 

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