musicians playing

+ Arup’s SoundLab enables people to hear in real time what a concert hall would sound like when complete

I think design is at its best when people can engage and collaborate in an immersive environment and can provide immediate feedback. The ultimate goal would be to actively participate in acoustic design and hear the results in real time.

Imagine being able to personally try out and adjust the acoustics of a concert hall before it is built. As a musician, think what it would be like to play your instrument in a lab and hear what it will sound like in a finished auditorium.

This is what we are doing with Arup’s SoundLab. Until now, this tool has told a story with sound, playing pre-prepared auralisations of proposed buildings to people. Building on work by Iain Laird in Glasgow, I am working with Dr. Terence Caulkins and others in New York to take this a step further and giving people the chance to take part in the story.

Musicians are used to discovering a space by creating their own sounds and listening to how the building responds. Through the course of my research, I’ve noticed that musicians give much more detailed feedback when they’re able to play rather than just listen. This can be extended to non-musicians as well: when someone walks into a new space and shouts or claps their hands, they can understand the acoustics in a very intuitive way.

By combining real-time auralisation with real-time modelling, it would be possible to work with musicians to modify concert hall design in real time, allowing them to play through each design change and provide immediate feedback. Current work by my colleague, Alban Bassuet and others in New York could soon make this a reality.

The potential of this approach has yet to be realised. It would be great to see clients and musicians interacting with the design together and collaborating in real time to produce concert halls that musicians and audiences alike will enjoy.

There’s no reason why this couldn’t apply to other buildings too. From stadiums to conference facilities, I think there are a host of applications where real-time auralisation and modelling could make a real difference to the quality of the final design.