Dear Architects: Sound Matters

Dear Architects: Sound Matters
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN December 29, 2015

 

We talk about how cities and buildings look. We call places landmarks or eyesores. But we rarely talk about how architecture sounds, aside from when a building or room is noisy.

The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds. The reading rooms at the New York Public Library have an overlay of rich sound. Your office may be a big room in a glass building with rows of cubicles where people stare into computer screens.

It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet.

Is it?

Often the sound of a place is so pervasive that we stop noticing what we hear. Or we think the sound could not be otherwise — that is, until we, say, turn off the buzzing overhead lights.

Compare, for instance, the ear-shattering subway platform in New York City with a relatively silent station in Paris, where trains slide into platforms on whooshing wheels:

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