Thursday, 13 February 2014

Announcing a new exhibition: Tessellate Wall Panel and Acoustic Design for Interiors

Sensing Spaces exhibition, Royal Academy, London 7 February 2014

When was the last time you stood inside a building and felt a sense of awe?

Overwhelmed by the design, scale and atmosphere of the place?
Exceptional buildings create a sense of drama that transcends their practical function, and has a powerful effect on our emotions.
I felt this during the Xmas eve carol service in Edinburgh Cathedral. Although I’m not religious, the beautiful architecture and endless reverberations of the choir’s voices created a sound of ethereal beauty and a genuinely moving experience.  
We often don’t remember the details of how a place looked or sounded, but we remember how it made us feel.
At their best, buildings allow us a sense of perspective, and a way to reflect and identify with something bigger than ourselves, whether spiritual or physical.
But who wants to deal with this kind of high drama on a day to day basis, in the ‘normal’ places of offices, home and restaurants where we spend most of our time?
The acoustics of the interiors in which we work, rest and play need to be appropriate to the practical function of the space.
During a conference call at work, you’re not seeking a sublime moment, just to be heard and understood. Excessive reverberation or noise wears on our nerves and makes it more difficult to relax, be heard or be productive.
If the sound and function of a space don’t match, it creates tension.
Or it just feels wrong.
Recently, I had dinner in a local restaurant housed in a converted church. It looked atmospheric and welcoming. We sat cocooned within its gold walls, surrounded by hand painted murals, soft lighting, candles and warm, solid wood furniture.  But with virtually no fabrics, curtains, rugs or absorbent panels, the overall feeling was hollow.
The building’s original architectural acoustics didn’t work for its new function as a restaurant.
But the unique look and style of a space doesn't have to be compromised to achieve the right acoustics.
A sensitivity to materials and using them wherever possible to absorb sound, is key to achieving the right reverberation time in a space.
The ideal reverberation time - the time that sound takes to disappear when it hits a surface and bounces back - depends on the function of a space:
For a living room it’s 0.4 seconds
For an opera house it’s 1.2 seconds
And for St. Pauls Cathedral it’s 9.2 seconds
A rich palette of materials and surfaces on furniture and fittings helps you create a more welcoming feel in, for instance, a hotel reception. Consider adding a large rug in waiting areas or use upholstered rather than seating with hard surfaces. Or use curtains rather than blinds to soften the acoustics.
Combining good looks with acoustics is what we specialise in at Friends of Wilson. Later this month we’ll be showcasing our approach with an exciting exhibition at The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture.
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and once housing the Glasgow Herald newspaper, the Lighthouse’s main artery is a contemporary multi-leveled atrium defined by huge concrete slab-type walls contrasted with glacier-like balustrades. The light and shadow, and therefore the mood of the interior, are unpredictable, determined by the brooding, fast-changing Glasgow skies.
Deep within the ravine-like atrium space and scaling two floors, will be a six and a half metre high installation of our modular panel, Tessellate.
Bold and dramatic as The Lighthouse, the panels compromise none of the aesthetics of the space but absorb sound reflections from the surrounding hard materials to create a warmer, more welcoming area within the large open space.
New video footage created in partnership with Salford University acoustic testing laboratories will be projected, highlighting the benefits of acoustic design and how it can help create welcoming, well functioning spaces.
Are you in Glasgow between 28 February and 6 April? Come to experience this unique exhibition – we’d love to see you and hear what you think!

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