Architectural Digest recently featured one of our residential projects, a home overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York. Designed by architecture & design firm BWArchitects for a private client, the house occupies property farmed by architect Basil Walters’ own grandparents for over 50 years, which he recounts visiting as a young man. The design is informed both by the landscape and by the architect’s experiences there, and includes a dedicated listening room with carefully controlled acoustics.
Posts Tagged ‘finishes’
Just in case you missed the August issue of Building Design + Construction Magazine, there was a very interesting article on Enhanced Acoustical Design on page 45. Truth be told we may be a bit biased as we helped with the article – but you can earn AIA/CES credit for reading it too!
Ever since the New York City Subway started broadcasting automated voice announcements a few months ago, people have noticed a striking but hard-to-place familiarity in the voice behind the announcements. If you couldn’t put your finger on it, the New York Times has interviewed Carolyn Hopkins, the voice artist behind not only the subway announcements, but also those at all three NYC airports (LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark). Not to mention subway systems in Chicago, Washington, and Paris, and many other subways and major airports in the US and worldwide!
Despite the ubiquity of her voice here, Ms. Hopkins does not live in New York City, and though she visits occasionally has not used the subway here since 1957. She works from her home studio in Maine, recording the announcements in “a windowless room in her house with sound-absorbing material on the wall — a tapestry, hung like a painting but covering foam.” Even improvised absorptive treatments like these can go a long way toward improving audio quality in basic studios and recording booths—and the benefits are are no less in any room with so much as a speakerphone.
Of course, some might not be surprised that Ms. Hopkins provides the voice of the subway from the Maine countryside. No one that had to use the subway regularly could be so calm and composed when delivering your wait for the next train!
Most people are familiar with the typical fabric-wrapped wall panels and acoustical ceiling tiles that absorb sound and echo in office environments—and may also be familiar with the reverberant, unintelligible character of a room without these absorptive treatments. However, the same absorption can always be provided in less traditional forms, delivering world-class design that just happens to have acoustic benefit as well.
In search of this sort of innovation on a recent visit to Copenhagen, we stopped by the Dansk Design Center, a museum and gallery showcasing the best in Danish industrial, product, and graphic design. On display among the winners of the 2010/11 Danish Design Prize was a product called Clouds, produced by Kvadrat A/S and designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. The product is a modular system of 2-D felt panels that are joined with rubber bands at the edges to form complex, striking 3-D surfaces and volumes. The resulting felt sculptures can be fixed to walls, hung from ceilings, or form room dividers on their own.
Acoustically, felt is an effective absorber of high-frequency sound, and by trapping substantial air spaces within or behind the overall surface, low- and mid-frequency absorption is possible as well. Products like this allow the acoustic treatment to form an attractive centerpiece to a space’s visual aesthetic, rather than blending into the background!
Today’s Wall Street Journal features an article on noisy restaurants, and specifically why newer restaurants are noisier than ever. Although the physical causes are nothing new—open kitchens, loud music, and hard finishes that provide little acoustic absorption—the article associates recent noise increases with the current economic downturn. Interior style elements that traditionally absorb sound—heavy curtains, carpeting, linens, and upholstery— “telegraph a fine-dining message out of sync with today’s cost-conscious, informal diner.”
Of course, the clean, modern aesthetic sought by today’s upscale restaurant needn’t necessarily be a noisy one. Acoustical treatments that absorb sound and reduce din don’t always take the form of plush carpet, soft upholstery, or heavy drapes; modern treatments can match almost any aesthetic conceivable, hiding behind smooth plaster, wood veneer, metal, transparent plastic, and even artwork. Beyond matching acoustic performance to visual appearance, an acoustical consultant can also ensure that these treatments don’t go overboard—unnecessarily deadening the lively, energetic feel that many popular restaurants thrive upon.
A colleague tipped us off to the website of Swedish company Fellert, maker of a line of acoustically-absorptive plaster finishes for walls and ceilings. Their product is composed of ingredients so natural that their marketing director felt comfortable spreading it on toast and eating it on camera!
Although we have yet to use this particular product (and would likely still recommend against eating it), absorptive acoustic plasters like this can be an excellent way to reduce echo and reverberation in a space, while maintaining a clean, monolithic, gypsum- or plaster-like appearance. Let’s hope it tastes as good as it works!