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 architects. 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 intersecting the history and theory of architecture with media history and theory. It is dedicated to architecture students and to other students enrolled in programs and intellectual disciplines with interests in media and/or sound studies. The seminar will be structured along thematic readings each week. In addition to reading discussions from diverse fields and disciplines, each student will lead a 30-minute discussion based on the presentation of a built case study.

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
30% Class Presentation / 40% In-class Participation / 30% Final Presentation

Up to five seats will be held for MDes students.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.