The use of Acoustics to Inspire Quality Design Aaron Kanapesky

I. inspiration for an Idea

One space is extraordinary, while the other is unpleasant
Consideration of Acoustics should effect Design

1. MIT Chapel By Saarinen - Acoustics considered within original architectural language

2. (insert underfunded church project here) - Manufactured acoustic products which can impose a foreign design language upon original language

Question: Is it possible to consider & manipulate acoustics within a legible design language in a positive way?

Inspiration from the Elements

(technical goals of the consultant) x+ (Architectural goals of the designer) x = Creation

X = Material used. I looked to the most basic of "material" : Earth, Air, Water



Very Absorptive to Very Reflective
"Earth" has a wide performance range
Civic Arena-Pittsburgh 1960's


An open air condition is considered a perfect acoustic aborber

Sound waves leave, and simply have no surface to help them return to sender
Opened in 1960 as first venue in world with operable roof
Roof Closed= great for sports, bad for rock/pop concerts


The surface of a body of water is considered a perfect reflector

Lake or pond condition
Difference between Phases
The difference between the Gas and Liquid Phases is what makes the water surface so tough to penetrate with sound
Study Model

II. Materiality & Room Acoustics

IF Gabion can communicate porosity with light, why not use that variable for a different form of wave: Sound
Using similar grad stones, more airspace can be achieved


Danish Radio Concert Hall- Jean Nouvel & Nagata Acoustics
Rick Joy
Performance-Driven Design
BY bringing acoustic function INTO the wall itself, the architecture allows the user to focus on the subject of human performance rather than material performance
Performance within a Legible Language
Fall Project- San Francisco House of Music
Genuine Gabion vs Composite

Water Wall Study

Take the surface, flip it 90, and use it
goals: Fabricate a system that could be tested. Make the system quiet enough to "disappear." TEST the actual water surface to see if it REFLECTS as well as a body of water
10 dB difference between cases sound "twice" as loud

Testing The Concept

The water-surface concept comes full circle to become: The Waterwall

Short Section

Boston Elemental

IV. Two Projects: 2 Contexts

Tabula Rossa vs. Sandwich Condition

San Francisco House of Music

  • Performance Hall for music (not theater), Outdoor Amphitheater, Classrooms
  • Site in Golden Gate Park
Site plan
The program responded to the site by dividing itself, allowing the function of each program piece to become legible individually

rehearsal building_lawn vista_pedestrian funnel

Performance Hall

Ground Plans

The Boston Elemental

  • Spring Competition for Acoustic Society of America
  • Infill Project, no actual site, 130' deep X 100' wide
  • Extensive Performance program
Air as an Absorber
Outdoor Amphitheater for amplified Music- San Fransisco
Roof Venue for light amplified music and small shows- Boston

Inspired by a simple study of removing the roof plane of a famous concert hall

Genuine Gabion vs Composite Gabion


Acoustics CAN inform and inspire us rather than hide deep within the depths of technical requirements

There does not have to be a battle between design languages of architects, consultants, and manufactured products. This dialogue should happen from the start. Making this effort will result in not only designs that work technically, but a legible design that can strive for beauty and innovation.

All I can end with is:


Especially to Michael, Heiner, and Scott for their patience, guidance, and support during the past 2 years

A HUGE Thankyou also to Drew Hulva, Jeff Rynes, Randall Rehfus, Abram Diaz, Tanner Upthegrove, and everybody else who have directly or indirectly assisted me in this exploration

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