Aural architecture

Physical acoustics and aural architecture, while directly related, have profoundly different emphases. The former uses a scientific language to describe the way in which spatial acoustics changes attributes of sound waves, while the latter considers the experiences and behaviour of inhabitants in a space. One emphasises discrete measurement and modelling, while the other explores a complex interactive phenomenon. (Blesser and Salter 2007)

We may find different terms to define a practice of sound and architecture such as sonic architecture, acoustic architecture, and aural architecture. I have chosen to employ the term aural architecture, as aural parallels visual and as my practice addresses the affective experience of sound in space. According to acoustician Barry Blesser and environmental psychologist Ruth-Linda Salter, aural refers to the human experience of a sonic process, and aural architecture refers to the properties of space that can be experienced by listening, and focus on the way that listeners experience space (Blesser and Salter 2007, 2-5). Any environment, natural or built, generates an aural architecture. Every space has an aural architecture. It is the attributes of a space, such as surfaces, objects, materials and geometries, that will determine its specific acoustic aspects. And it is the human experience of that space that determinates its aural qualities (1).
The acoustic cues orientate our navigation but provide also sensory stimulus which define the space’s aural specificity and influence our associations and moods (such as feelings of cold or warm, public or intimate, freedom or insecurity). Aural architecture can be defined in social, navigational, aesthetic and musical aspects. This means that our auditory spatial awareness manifests itself in at least four different ways: influences social behaviour; allows orientation and navigation through a space; affects our aesthetic sense of place; enhances our experience of music and voice. Moreover the aural experience can be described in terms of abilities: sensation as detectability; recognition as perceptibility; affect as desirability (Blesser and Salter 2007, 11-13). Throughout this thesis, I have explored modes of practicing and designing aural architecture. As it will be explained, there was a particular interest in understanding the aural experience of space as matter-energy and vibrational forces, to design affective experiences of environmental sound.

Notes:

  1. The aural qualities of a space are recognised by the human being since pre-history. Several European prehistoric chambers, especially in those that have megalithic art on the walls, have particular resonance qualities (Coimbra 2017, 128).

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