Great architecture and interior design are mostly thought of as a feast for the eyes. Light, space, form, finish and flow combine to deliver beautiful looking spaces. We also take it for granted that buildings smell nice, and that any surfaces we come into contact with complement the overall experience. Apart from taste, which we’ll leave to the kitchen, that just leaves the other sense, hearing.
Unlike sight, which we can easily shut off by simply closing our eyes, we can’t shut off our hearing. It is always working. Always making sense of the spaces around us. Even with our eyes closed, we ‘see’ spaces by processing all the tiny subtle sound reflections from the room’s surfaces. If you walk into a room with your eyes shut, you can still get a really good idea about its size and level of furnishing. A very large part of a space feeling cosy is how we perceive its acoustics, and not just what visible interior finishes and furniture we see. This is all with no additional sources of sound such as music playing and people speaking. Once those are added, the acoustics of a space become even more important.
Consider a dining room where the purpose is not really to eat, but to socialize and have rich conversation. I’m sure that most of you have been in dining environments, be it a restaurant or a home, where conversation has been extremely challenging simply due the acoustics of the space leading to there being a cacophony of noise created by everyone speaking. This can be even worse once we get older with the inevitable subtle, but important hearing loss that accompanies advancing years.
When was the last time you were shown around a house and the real estate agent pointed out how fantastic a space sounds? Acoustics is the often-forgotten design element and is absolutely not the preserve of home theatre and HiFi listening rooms though it, of course, plays a critical part in the level of sonic excellence within those types of rooms. Acoustics is for every space in a building and plays as equal a role as any other design decision in how we, as humans, feel in a space even when it is quiet. Yet, how often is acoustics discussed during the design process for a home?
I recently watched a video online about ‘The most expensive house in the world’, built in the Los Angeles Hills. From the first moment someone spoke in the oh-so-grand entrance hall, I felt the building was cold. Not because of the color, or swathes of expensive hard finishes, or the lighting, but because of the reverberant (echoey) acoustic of the space that made it, I suspect, not a very pleasant or relaxing place to spend time in. If a party were held in there, then shouting would be the order of the night.
The key to achieving beautiful human-centric acoustics in a space is proper consideration early during the concept stage of a building. Leave this until the end and options that fit into the desired interior design scheme may be limited. When considered early, the key is to ensure that every space has enough, but not too much, acoustic absorption appropriate to the use of a room. This absorption can be hidden in plain sight as what we refer to as Acoustic Sculpture, or completely integrated into the room. Even a surface finish that looks hard, with a little thought and engineering can be made out of an acoustically absorptive material. Invisible acoustics. And, of course, if the space has high quality audio reproduction in mind such as a theatre or music listening room, then serious consideration needs to be given to the acoustic engineering so that it’s beautifully and invisibly integrated into the room. We call this Acoustic interior Design.
Officina Acustica (literally translates to Acoustic Workshop) is a recent evolution of HTE, an Italian company designing and manufacturing the world’s finest bespoke acoustic interiors. From one-off acoustic sculpture to complete fit-outs of high-performance screening rooms, Officina Acustica fuses real acoustic engineering with beautiful Italian design and artisan craftsmanship. We work closely with the homeowners and their design team to ensure that any space is as much a feast for the ears, as it is to the eyes.
Contact Officina Acustica by clicking the icons to the right (or below if you’re on a mobile device).