Balancing Sight + Sound: A study of acoustics and architecture

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Virginia Tech


WHAT? The interconnectedness of acoustics and architecture is one that is too often overlooked. Many architects tend to focus solely on visual aesthetics, when in reality, it is the architect's job to create a space that is pleasing to all of the senses. Although all senses are important to the experience of a space, in most instances architects only have control over sight, sound, and touch. While architects usually make calculated decisions to improve the visual and touch experience, it seems that acoustics are an afterthought and rarely brought to attention unless there are special requests from the client or complaints from the user.

WHY? The issues caused by poor acoustic considerations range from a space that is simply annoying to occupy, such as a desk fixed under the constant hum of an air vent, to rooms that are unusable for their intended purpose, such as a lecture hall with a long reverberation time making it impossible to distinguish syllables and understand the speaker. In the case of musical performances, the acoustical considerations of a design can completely alter the way sound travels from the performers to the audience. For example, a rock concert in a small room finished in marble would be unbearable, while a high school orchestra would be inaudible from the back of a large amphitheater. Therefore, it is important to design a space in which the architecture strengthens the performances that it was intended for.

HOW? In this thesis I examine the balance of visual aesthetics and acoustical performance into a single building, the Shrine Hill Music Center. Located in Roanoke, Virginia, the Shrine Hill Music Center is imagined as a supplement to the surrounding educational buildings by housing a small performance hall, several practice rooms, and a recording studio to be enjoyed by students and members of the community. During my research I found myself asking questions such as; what architectural choices can be made that are both visually and audibly pleasing? What acoustical factors should be considered when designing a performance hall and how do these differ from those of a practice room or a recording studio? Is there an opportunity to tune a space just as one is able to tune an instrument? By the end I was not only left with a building that utilizes the architecture to enhance the acoustics, but also an abundance of acoustical knowledge that will benefit me in my future endeavors as a designer.



Acoustics, Room Acoustics, Geometry, Site Integration