acoustic privacy


last week i was roped into appearing on part of a chit-chat panel, as part of SIAL‘s drink + think series. the discussion was on architecture, public art + sound and where those three disciplines intersect, what the possibilities are for the future of them and what some of the problems are surrounding them. derek thompson, from arup’s sound lab was there, as was barnaby bennett, who apparently also gave a presentation on “the re-emergence of brown” (that’s my kind of seminar title), as well as geoff hogg and anthony mcinneny.

and as much as i enjoyed being a part of it, my all-star panel on this topic would include dan hill, lawrence harvey, anton hassell (his tubular bells, mau bells laneway commission is amazing), dylan martorell, michael fowler, marco fusinato and maybe david byrne/ dan liebskind talking about playing buildings🙂

one thread of the discussion that i particularly enjoyed hearing about, with regards to architecture, urbanity, sound and public art is the idea of acoustic privacy. i’m reading some very interesting literature at the moment about the history of privacy amongst the bourgeoisie, but it’s the new culture of the open-plan office, and the re-emergence of a headphone culture that piques my interest. where the ‘cone of silence’ has currency as a phrase that is not just a quote from get smart, but an understood space of mental peace and private resonance.

i’d also be interested in looking at the effect of acoustic privacy in terms of emotional response and sleep patterns. when i travelled around europe, in youth hostels all over the place, i regularly had the best sleep, ‘cos i carried several pairs of earplugs with me. once i shut out the high pitches of any noise in the immediate vicinity and the midtones of outside traffic, i was in a world of my own – in the sonic version of darkness – and i slept like a log.

[i know it’s not solving the problem, but i wonder what a difference ear plugs would make on the lives of those who live on the streets/in shelters.]

and, i guess, given those ubiquitous stats about populations inevitably becoming primarily city-bound, how will we as a species adapt to the noise of urban space? will we physically evolve accordingly, by having a low range of perception? or will we continue to develop devices/tools to cope? and our childrens children, born into higher and higher densities, how will their private space sound?

*image by aaron kraten, from his flickr spot

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