Acoustic Space: A Media Archaeology of Building Types

This is a seminar on the past and present relationship between architecture, information technologies, and mass media. More than ever before, we live in acoustic space. We live constantly plugged-in, travelling in our personal sonic bubbles bounded by headphones and other devices. We listen because we like it, but also to disconnect and avoid other noises. Our times are defined by an unprecedented and simultaneous coexistence of sounds and images disseminated at the speed of light, and yet there is little understanding of the architectural implications of this phenomenon. However, the construction of the media-saturated environments we inhabit began more than 100 years ago, when radio started to populate the ether, when television entered the domestic space, until the present day, when the internet seems to cover every single aspect of our daily lives. This seemingly invisible and immaterial phenomenon has been producing—and has been produced by—new building types throughout the past century, which have been widely overlooked by our discipline.
If media technologies such as radio, telephony, television, and the internet presume the construction of “space” without any material implications, this seminar proposes to look closely at select case studies that evidence the consequences of media in built space. We will focus on the intersection of buildings and electronic media technologies, with specific interest in sonicity, aiming to understand the material questions these media-populated spaces raise for the architect. In this context, the seminar will trace the genealogy of Broadcasting Houses, Television Studios, Cinemas, Acoustic Laboratories, Telephone Exchange Buildings, Educational Spaces, and Data Centers, among others.
The seminar is a multidisciplinary course, situated at the intersection of the history and theory of architecture, and the history and theory of media. It is open to architecture students, as well as to students enrolled in other programs and intellectual disciplines with interests in media and/or sound studies. Given the virtual learning environment, each session will be structured by both synchronous and a synchronous content. Beyond weekly assigned readings, and pre-recorded lectures by the instructor, each student will prerecord one 20-minute-long presentation on a case study of their choice. We will meet weekly to discuss the presentations and the readings in 90-minute synchronous sessions. In addition, we will be joined by guests in some of the sessions, introducing different perspectives from artists and intellectuals outside of the discipline.
Participants in the seminar are expected to work throughout the semester on one case study of their choice selected in conversation with the instructor. Students will work on an illustrated paper in which drawings and writing will have equal relevance. In addition, participants in the seminar will submit a 1-minute-long sound or video composition made of found footage or sounds related to their case study. 
Grading Rubric
20% Class Presentation / 40% In-class Participation / 40% Final Presentation
Course structure
– 45-minute introduction to the topic of the session by the instructor (asynchronous and pre-recorded by instructor).
– 2 or 3 20-minute-long presentations by students on their case studies (asynchronous and pre-recorded).
– 90-minute reading discussion and debate about student presentations (synchronous).

??Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez