Sound is regularly a subsidiary design parameter to visual manipulations, and even more so for urban design. The present concept may be owed to the ephemeral nature of sound or the aggregate algorithms that operate numerous datasets. While people do not experience space through any one sense alone, the prevailing design standard procedures address, almost exclusively, one sense—sight. Architects and urban designers are aware that humans use multiple senses to comprehend their built (and natural) environments. Notwithstanding, the integration of manipulation design techniques of additional senses customarily occurs at the secondary stage because the eyes are the prime signal receptors in structuring mental maps. This argument maintains that the aural sense is complementary and, therefore, is approached as such.
Extensive research exists in other disciplines that addresses sound upon which architectural design can build. Artists, scientists and engineers have investigated the effects of sound on human physiology, building structures, biological organisms, and even electronic devices. Sound has been an imperative feature in singular cases of spatial design that attend to either acoustic engineering or designs that generate emotional responses. Reports determine that users encounter a cerebral awareness within spaces that successfully integrate aural manipulation techniques. To examine new design methods, this study contemplates sound as a primary determining design parameter. Through cross-disciplinary research, the paradigm construction applied here considers sound properties and human responses.
Science illustrates that a visual impairment is less detrimental than is a hearing impairment. The difficulty lies in the firm link between the aural sense and language development; without language and the ability to interpret speech intonations, one cannot form logical thought. Neurologists indicate that more than one cerebral region governs sound processing and manages speech coordination. Evidence indicates that the human brain evolved to respond immediately and instinctively to sound through the startle reflex as part of the survival instinct. In fact, the brain evolved to separate the decoding tasks of sound properties to different regions and to provide associations that facilitate spatial mapping, such as event comprehension, danger detection and survival response.
Contrary to the neurobiological configuration of the other senses, the signal-receiving organ (i.e., the ear) and the initial cerebral decoding area (auditory primary cortex) are frequency selective (i.e., tonotopically mapped). The inner ear and cortex configurations have an approximate oneto- one relationship with audible frequency rates. The corresponding biological and neurological configurations infer that the fidelity of aural stimuli is much higher than that of any other sense, which enables more accurate spatial mental mapping. Hence, the premise that vision is the primary human sense and must be the principal design parameter is not accurate.
Through this reasoning, this research looks at the biological and neurological means involved in perceiving sound, and the cerebral associations that enable individuals to chart their surroundings and to become aurally aware of the spaces they occupy. This study employs the acquired biological and neurological facts to trace parallels between theories found in musicology and published aural experiences in two groups of architectural precedents. The first group examined includes projects designed to integrate two (or more) senses to generate an emotional response appropriate to the intended narrative, ‘Trauma Architecture’.
The second group of archetypes examines a range of acoustic and aural design practices. Several ancient cultures were aware of the qualities of sound and applied them as ways to communicate, broadcast information, and impose a narrative of ‘grandeur’ in their temples. This study reviews two historical examples and discusses modern research used to analyse these structures. The second subgroup considers acoustically engineered performance halls. These precedents are not built for a specific narrative; rather, they are designed to deliver a performance narration (music, choreography, or drama) as composed by the artists. Performance hall designers employ the same fundamental parameters (geometry and material) used in other precedents toward a technical effect while leaving room for the performance to insert its narrative.
Another group includes interdisciplinary archetype systems invented by aural designers, which are the closest models to the approach of this thesis. Xenakis and Fontana, likewise, utilise the same fundamental parameters, but under the expanded definition of aural architecture. The process alternates between selecting existing spaces for their sonic features and building aural spaces. Both strategies infer an elemental social criterion. Xenakis designed buildings to create aural experiences while Fontana extracts the aural events in an otherwise static structure. Their works, along with the other presented aural and acoustic models suggest that the design directly influences the programmatic aspects of and the relationship among occupants who have authority over the perception and dynamics of an aural space.
As with early cultures, the thresholds between sound and space seem to blur as further investigations across diverse domains emerge. This chapter establishes the foundation required to answer the initial question of this thesis: “Is it possible to develop an urban public space design model derived by acoustical phenomena and aural spatial qualities?” The paradigm presented here demonstrates that humans typically apprehend these qualities. Accordingly, this discourse prepares for the following discussion on the parallels between the fundamentals of urban design and aural spatial awareness. With that, this up-coming posts proceed to investigate that inquiry by emphasising the two principal perceptual aural components that contribute to the spatial mapping of a particular type of urban setting via aural cues. The first is unique urban sounds and the second is fundamental acoustic characteristics (materials and geometry) in play.