Mind & Matter


Architectural Sound Maps

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Although architects operate primarily within the visual domain, we know that the architectural experience affects other senses beyond vision. The other senses are more difficult to simulate during the design process, however. The properties of sound, for example, are understood in principle—but what if we could experience a virtual “auditory rendering” with the same accuracy that we experience a visual rendering of a building design?

Cardiff University researcher John Culling is approaching this goal. The UK-based scientist has developed software-based ears that transform schematic building designs into “sound maps.” These auditory-based depictions predict the way that sound will travel in a room, addressing one of the most important factors: the discernibility of human speech against background noise. This common acoustic challenge has proved difficult to solve accurately in the past, but Culling’s tool has already delivered compelling results in comparisons of virtual simulations to actual constructed spaces.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.