“In the elevators of the Empire State Building, you’d hear the elevators of the Eiffel Tower. The sounds of the Paris Metró are replaced with the sounds of the Bejing subway…If you don’t like Rome, you can make it sound like Dubai.” –Geoff Manaugh, The BldgBlog Book
In this passage, author Geoff Manaugh introduces his exploration on the relationship between sound and the built environment with an imaginative, playful, and intriguing demonstration of the impact of sound on the identity of spaces. He brings to the readers’ attention the depth that noise brings to the built environment, and building upon this foundation, considers the manipulation of architecture, landscape architecture, and even geography with sound.
This is accomplished through his presentation of designs that facilitate such an experience. For example, he discusses the “Mix House” by architects Joel Sanders, Karen Van Lengen, and architect Ben Rubin of EAR Studio; a “dwelling composed of two sounds gathering volumes outfitted with three audiovisual windows…[that] from the sound command center of the house, occupants are free to design original domestic soundscapes.” Manaugh fantasizes different acoustical/architectural experiences by considering the relocation of the “Amplifier House” to remote areas or by grouping several of the homes together. Here, the manipulation of the experience of architecture is exemplified, but he also introduces the physical manipulation, or destruction, of architecture. He surveys sound artist Mark Bain’s “Tectonic Sound Machines,” which utilize the Earth’s movements to demolish structures with sonic frequencies.
Manaugh’s presentation is fanciful, and at times eccentric, but the tone of the writing is well suited to the subject matter. The designs are impractical, and they don’t offer solutions to architectural problems such as functionality or environmental sustainability, but they do make a strong case for the impact of sound, noise, and music on the built environment. They are whimsical, and heighten the readers’ attention to acoustical qualities in architecture. They plead for us to enjoy the built environment with more of our senses, and therefore, with more richness.
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