Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sound of Space

Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sound, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere. That has to do with the shape peculiar to each room and with the surfaces of the materials they contain, and the way those materials have been applied.
Take a wonderful spruce floor like the top of a violin and lay it across wood. Or again: stick it to a concrete slab. Do you notice the difference in sound? Of course.
But unfortunately many people are not aware of the sound a room makes.

The sounds we associate with certain rooms: speaking personally, what always comes first to my mind are the sounds when I was a boy, the noises my mother made in the kitchen. They made me feel happy. If I was in the front room I always knew my mother was at home because I could hear her banging about with pots and pans and what have you.
But there are sounds, too, in a great hall: the noises in the grand interior of a railway terminal, or you hear sounds in a town and so on.

But if we take it a step further - even if it gets a bit mystical now - and imagine extracting all foreign sound from a building, and if we try to imagine what that would be like: with nothing left, nothing there to touch anything else. The question arises: does the building still have a sound?
Try it out yourselves.

I think each one emits a kind of tone. They have sounds that aren't caused by friction. I've no idea what they are. Maybe it's the wind or something.
But you only really feel there's something else there when you enter a space that's soundproofed.
It's lovely.

I find it's a beautiful thing when you're making a building and you imagine the building in that stillness. I mean trying to make the building a quiet place. That's pretty difficult these days, because our world has become so noisy. Well, not so much here, perhaps. But I know other places that are much noisier and you have to go to some lengths to make quiet rooms and imagine the sound they make with all their proportions and materials in a stillness of their own.

I realise the sound I am making must remind you of a sermon - but isn't it more simple than that, and more pragmatic?
How does it really sound, when we walk through it. When we speak, when we talk to each other - what will the sound be?
And what if I want to sit in a living-room and talk to three good friends on a Sunday afternoon and read at the same time?

I've got something written down here: the closing of a door.
There are buildings that have wonderful sounds, telling me I can feel at home, I'm not alone.

I suppose I just can't get rid of that image of my mother, and actually I don't want to.

taken from:
Peter Zumthor

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