“Form and function are intertwined in a beautiful balance between visual and acoustic performance.” —Juror Avideh Haghighi
Glass is most typically found in acoustic applications as an intrinsically reflective element. One generally does not consider it a versatile performer in acoustically sensitive areas.
With Long Range, however, a team—led by University of Michigan associate professors of architecture Catie Newell and Wes McGee and Zackery Belanger, director of the Detroit-based Arcgeometer studio—looks at shaping glass for broader acoustic qualities.
The resulting artifact comprises 64 hexagonal slumped glass pieces arranged in two layers of 32 panels. The manipulation of the glass from flat to increasingly slumped and perforated at the opposite end creates a gradient across the piece from reflection to diffusion to absorption to transmission.
The work was developed over three phases of research. The first inquired about material and process, creating fabrication methods for the controlled slumping of double-layered hexagonal glass panels. Each panel can be perforated with auxetic patterns that vary the acoustic properties. The second phase investigated the acoustic behavior of the components in aggregate using wave-based computational simulations at varying scales, including room-scale. The third looked at surface dimensions, behavioral extents, and the system of assembly for actual implementation. The scale of the geometric modifications to the base flat panel is varied across the surfaces, with the most aggressive manipulation creating deeply curved surfaces and porous openings. This aesthetic complexity creates distinctive visual forms that match the increasingly unusual acoustic properties of a typically straightforward material.
“By selecting a very dark glass, we were able to amplify the play of reflection and pattern overlap to make a visual register of the formal modifications that in turn generated the acoustic gradients,” Newell says.
“Long Range relates shape and scale to acoustic performance and demonstrates acoustic continuity, so it shows that rooms and surfaces have the potential to avoid acoustic treatment altogether,” Belanger says.
The team posits that glass might be suitable for an entire enclosure that could fully encompass the occupants. Such a role for glass suggests it may be even more ubiquitous in our current century than the last.
Project: Long Range Glass
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Principal investigators: Catie Newell and Wes McGee of University of Michigan; Zackery Belanger of Arcgeometer LC
Project leads: Misri Patel, Oliver Popadich
Project team: Elizabeth Teret, Dan Tish, Maryam Alhajri, Ryan Craney, Amin Aghagholizadeh, Isabelle Leysens, Kelly Gregory
Installation team: Charlie O’Geen, Mehdi Shirvani, Mackenzie Bruce, Laurin Aman, Jessical Sato