- February 28, 2021
Architects work hard to visualize everything, from ecologies to airflows. We are all aware of the dominance of vision in our globalized culture, which has pushed architecture deeper and deeper into visual space, and, more recently, into the increasingly ambiguous, autonomous space of the image. Yet the image, seen as a confluence of information, representation, and generative computation,1 offers a surprising alternative to visuality, in the space of sound, or “acoustic space,” which is the space constructed in our minds from patterned vibrations in the atmosphere. Sound images have been studied, created and theorized for decades, and are a fundamental idea in music, as well as sound design.2 You experience carefully composed sound images every time you watch Netflix. Just like the patterned light we capture with our eyes, the patterned air we call sound is encoded with spatial and material information. Enmeshed within visual space there is acoustic space. Sound will not replace vision in architecture. But engaging architecture with multiple senses inevitably brings us closer to an abstract conception of space, untying a pervasive metaphysical identification of what is seen with what is. Sound is not space, but acoustic space is co-extensive with spacetime. This sonic space, like visual space, is space-ish.
Sound is inseparable from our idea and memory of place and urban space. The typographic composition below is a piece of a larger iterative experiment with documenting and representing sound and space. This sound-text-image documents a 30-minute close-listening exercise in a parking lot at the heart of New Haven’s commercial district.