Have you ever walked into a fancy restaurant, gym, museum, or sports hall and noticed all kinds of acoustical defects? It's a common problem and one that is often overlooked during the design process. Acousticians are rarely brought in during the early stages of designing auditoriums, theaters, houses, offices, and schools, and instead are called in after problems arise with reverberation, echoes, or unbearable noises.
So why is this the case? According to acoustician Daniele Ponteggia, the main problem is that we cannot see sound. In our visually-biased world, this presents a major flaw. "The visual architectural aspects of a building can be seen and experienced by visiting a place but also indirectly by looking at a picture in a book or watching a video. To experience the acoustics of a space instead, we need to meet two standards: (1) we must be there, and (2) we also need to interact with the space," Ponteggia explains.
This means that in order to fully experience a space's acoustics, we need to be physically present and interact with the space. This can be through our own voices or through musical instruments, but without a source of sound, we are unable to fully understand how a space will sound. This lack of experience is likely a major reason why acoustics are not given the same level of consideration in design as other aspects of a space.
But there are tools available that can help to improve the design process. CAD acoustic modeling software, for example, allows designers to see a 3D representation of a space and understand how it might sound. And while these tools are not widely available to the general public, they can be very useful for architects and designers in predicting and improving the acoustics of a space.
Ponteggia also points out that architectural acoustics are often simpler than they appear, and that acousticians themselves can contribute to the complexity by using elaborate theories and elite perspectives. "I think that architects and acousticians should not be afraid to touch upon the scientific basis of acoustics, but they should also be aware that the more they try to make acoustics “appear” complex, the more they risk alienating their target audience," Ponteggia says.
In order to make acoustics more accessible and easier to understand, Ponteggia suggests turning acoustical parameters into visual representations that can be shared with architects and designers. This could include simulations that show how the acoustics of a space will develop, and highlight potential design flaws or improvements.
Overall, it's important to remember that sound is just as important as sight in the design process. By giving proper consideration to acoustics, we can create spaces that are not only visually appealing but also functional and comfortable for those who will be occupying the space.
But don't just slap some panels on the walls and call it a day. It's important to think about the layout and design of the space as well. Hard surfaces like concrete and glass reflect sound, which can make the space feel like a never-ending game of Ping-Pong. For example, Architects and Interior Designers can consider using softer materials and adding some curves to a design (amongst other things) to turn an echo chamber into a haven of peace and quiet. And it bears repeating that we will be a phone call away to advise you every step of the way.
In the end, it's all about finding the right balance. Acoustic panels can work wonders, but they're just one piece of the puzzle. By considering the whole picture, you can create a space that's not just visually appealing, but acoustically pleasing as well.