Author : Joanna Pawlas

University : Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Status : MArch, 2013

Advisors : Marcos Cruz, Marjan Colletti, Richard Beckett

Title : Sonic Morphologies

This thesis explores how urban soundscape can be integrated into architecture to create controlled sonic environments through creation of site-specific, parametric geometry of reflective surfaces and levels of sonic permeability by means of natural acoustics as a defining driver and design generator.

This research project studies the relationship of geometry to the physical properties of sound and how parametric systems, computation design and digital fabrication can be used to generate new types of acoustically regulating surfaces.

The focus of traditional engineering acoustics lies in reducing noise level and contributes to establishment of generic over-sterilized build environment by ignoring the potential of positive aspects of the soundscapes around us that have been studied in the past by social scientist and artist. This paper tries to encourage an interdisciplinary dialog between acoustic engineering and architectural design via adopted methodology of incorporating sound data into design of the sonic morphologies and aspects of controlled permeability while revisiting the validity of digital paradigms in the context of urban soundscape of Hong Kong (HK).

The design involves implication of acoustic zoning directly related to frequency mapping of HK urban soundscape on both macro- (audiourbanism) and microscale (audiobrick). This is achieved through the implication of sonic zoning: acoustic gardens – the concave acoustic mirrors are external spaces of accommodation units focusing the sounds of the city; audiobrick – acoustic filtration system within the public areas; what transpires into; the noise attenuating zone – on the street level. The main aspect of technical exploration is design of audiobrick –acoustic filtration modular system — commenced through digital tools: auralization software, simulation of acoustic output, as well as testing 1:1 and 1:5 digitally fabricated models. The general effect of band-stop and multiple high-pass as well as low-pass acoustic filters was clearly demonstrated for this system. The outcome suggests that smart interface geometry can be built into the digital design environment, perhaps negotiating both performative and experiential criteria demonstrating through incorporation of urban soundscape.

This is an attempt to contradict the hegemony of vision in contemporary architecture by proposing a building that is both tectonically relevant and phenomenologically stimulating.