Downtown Los Angeles is devoid of life. LA’s sprawling city-scape promotes and enforces a commuter culture. People drive to downtown only for work and then immediately leave with nothing to keep them there. Downtown is scaled to accommodate the automobile instead of the human body. The Arts District is full of students and artists and a great potential. My thesis intends to improve the urban environment and reconnect human life back to the city. Interfacing is a key word for my thesis: the building’s interface with the landscape, both urban and natural, and people’s interface with the building. My thesis is a sensitive reaction to both external and internal phenomena. Sound is used as a unifying element ala Longsfellow’s famous quote: “Music is the universal language of mankind.” People can focus their view on whatever they decide, but everyone hears the same thing in the same space. Sight is linear, while hearing is omnidirectional. This can be used as an advantage in public space. The negative open spaces are just as important as the positive solid buildings that define them.
Spatial sound design delves deeper than acoustical sound suppression. Sound enhancement is just as important as sound control. Sound design has been mostly ignored in recent times thus creating sonically sterile environments. Acoustics have begun to rely too much on electronics instead of architecture. Architects have the responsibility to arrange spaces in certain configurations to create desirable sonic experiences. Material, form, and arrangement all play important roles in aural architecture. People practice aural architecture every day, whether they know it or not, e.g. picking a seat in a room based on proximity to certain sound sources, or tuning out background noise with the use of headphones. Sight isn’t the only, and maybe not the most important, form of perception that should be considered in design and experience of space.
Soundscapes are about the relationship between the ear, localized sounds in the surrounding environment, and society. Soundscapes can help to create the perception of spaciousness but also envelopment. When designing a soundscape, one must consider psychological, spatial, acoustic, social, and environmental aspects. Experimental composer John Cage, by way of his controversial piece 4’33”, claimed the world, and all sounds emanating from it, was a musical composition. I used the juxtaposition and adjacencies created between a school of the performing arts and a public commercial space to create an engaging soundscape that promotes user interaction.
What effect does sound have on urban environments? Sound levels aren’t really the problem, but rather the sound source is more important to the affect on people. We think of the sound of cities as the sound of traffic. Object-centered sound is often regarded as “noise” and undesirable. We enjoy sounds created by other humans and are made aware of the presence of each other through sound. Cities need to be planned better to provide less focus on the car and more on people. Lively soundscapes are characterized by movement and animation such as live music and physical activity. Relaxing soundscapes include sounds of nature such as animals, trees, or water. We don’t want a decrease in sound levels, as silence can be off-putting, we want the quality of ambient noises to increase.
Status: School Project
Location: Los Angeles, CA, US