Architectural Acoustics

How would Be-Bop sound in a cathedral? How would Gregorian chant sound in a jazz club? And why can you hear every move your upstairs neighbors make?

In the first half of the fall semester, this module on architectural acoustics will explore the way that architecture influences what we hear and how designers can control that influence. Along the way we’ll touch on concert hall design, sound isolation in buildings, noise control, and the urban soundscape, among other topics.

This six-week seminar class will meet once a week for three-hour sessions that will include field trips, listening exercises, hands-on experience with sophisticated acoustical measurement equipment, lectures, and class discussions. Students will develop a basic understanding of the principles of architectural acoustics: how we hear and perceive sound both indoors and outdoors, what are appropriate criteria for listening environments and privacy, and how architectural decisions of layout, materials, room shape, and design impact what we hear in and around a space. Topics include the basics of sound and hearing, the acoustic properties of materials, room acoustics, sound transmission, and the acoustics of performance halls. By the end of the module, students will develop a sensitivity to the way that architecture affects our sense of hearing, and will have a grasp of how to implement fundamental design principles that profoundly affect our auditory perception and, by extension, our sense of space.

Homework will include field trips for listening and observations, problem sets, readings, a model building lab, and a module-long final project and presentation. Students will be graded on homework assignments, the final project, and contributions to class discussions. There will not be a final exam. All interested undergraduate and graduate students are welcome; there are no prerequisites.