December 28 2012

Music, Sound, and Noise: BldgBlog’s Fanciful Survey of Acoustically Inspired Designs

“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 builtFront Cover of The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manaugh 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.

The Mix House by architects Joel Sanders, Karen Van Lengen, and Ben Rubin

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.

For more information and topics, go to The BldgBlog Book page and follow it on Twitter.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

Website - Twitter - Facebook - More Posts

This entry was posted on Friday, December 28th, 2012 at 7:51 pm and is filed under Architecture, Environment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Leave a Reply

six − 6 =


Follow US