We think of sound as an amazingly powerful architectural material. Sound shapes us.
Our studio has musicians, artists and technologists. We've put that talent to use to create sounds that evoke specific emotions in new ways for people as they travel through buildings that we design. Essentially, we can create specific emotions in an environment using design computation to intelligently queue sounds intended to stimulate those specific emotions.
The sounds that we create are made in a manner that gives them a sense of space and atmosphere. This is achieved through a number of techniques, from recording with binaural microphones, to capturing sound in an environment that we are trying to recreate. A violin will sound dramatically different when recorded in sound booth versus a rain forest (yes, we've tested this).
Using Amazon's Mechanical Turk, we can then post hundreds of these isolated sounds online to get crowd-sourced feedback on each sound. This feedback is given from the exact audience that will experience the sounds in the final installation. At the same time, this process automatically codifies each isolated sound with properties like, “introspective,” “evening,” “optimistic,” “fun,” and “technical.”
The sounds are then arranged and played back to create “atmospheres.” If you want to create a space that evokes feelings of thoughtfulness, rhythm, and connectedness, this can happen by calling up files codified with similar properties. We might then have the space gradually shift to call up feelings of vitality, city, and future, for example. The sounds are never arranged in the same way twice, giving limitless variety and a sense of discovery to a place.
Finally, we play back arrangements using directional sound emitters. The emitters give a highly controlled, intimate feeling that dramatically shapes one's journey through a place that we've designed. We often combine emitters with traditional, full-range speakers.
Additionally, sounds can be slightly augmented or make dramatic shifts according to real-time inputs. Inputs can be, for example, time of day, time of year, position of the moon, the number of people experiencing the installation, the ambient noise levels created by those people, unusual swings in outside temperature, a sunny day after several consecutive days of rain, or mentions of a certain key words from people standing near the installation.
We call installations with real-time inputs “live atmospheres.” Installations that respond to occupants of a room are called “responsive atmospheres.” Simple, prearranged installations are simply “atmospheres.”
All of these things are considered new architectural materials, right alongside wood, glass, steel and concrete, and are new ways for designers to shape emotions in an environment.