I studied electrical & computer engineering, and acoustical engineering. After finishing my masters at the Technical University of Denmark, I worked as an acoustical consultant for a few years. One day I got an email from professor Cheol-Ho Jeong, who oversaw my master project, telling me that he and Henning Larsen were planning an industrial Ph.D. research project on developing methodologies and tools to get acoustics better integrated into architecture. He asked if I was interested, and of course, I said yes, so I moved back to Denmark and started the project in November 2016.
The goal is to have the acoustics become a design driver, from the earliest sketches and throughout the entire design process. We want to shape spaces, choose materials, and do space planning with acoustics in mind. We see many opportunities in modern architecture for using acoustics and soundscape in a positive way. Modern workplaces and educational buildings are becoming more open, undefined and flexible. This can be challenging from an acoustical perspective, but also allows for designing different soundscapes within one space to suit different functions (e.g. deep focus work, teamwork, creative work, etc).
To this end, we are developing simulation tools to make it easier and more intuitive to consider acoustics in architectural design. The initial idea was to create a tool where you could load your architectural model, press play, and it would read the model and tell you, “this is not a good design, or this is pretty good.” I quickly realized this was a rather one-dimensional approach. What if we coupled the acoustics simulation with the visual representation as well? Then you can consider lighting, space planning, acoustics, etc. together in a holistic way.
It is important to design spaces to have good acoustic comfort. There is a plethora of research on the importance of acoustics. For example, if you have poor acoustics in schools, children will not learn as well, and will not stay focused. In healthcare, increased medicine usage, slower healing and increased cases of re-hospitalization correlate with poor acoustic comfort. In workplaces, productivity and stress levels have been shown to be directly linked to acoustic comfort.
More specifically, in this project, I think that it is unique for an architectural firm to be considering acoustics. It is my hope that this research work will result in us designing better buildings with healthier indoor environments.
We have primarily used it on the new Uppsala City Hall. This is the first project where Henning Larsen is completely responsible for the room acoustics – the sound within the space. We have set up some VR mock-ups of different spaces in the building and tried out some different designs. As a result, we have come up with several interesting solutions for the acoustics which are integrated into the architecture as opposed to being an afterthought. We also used it on the Carl H Lindner College of Business, where we did mock-ups of some of the classrooms there to assess the quality of different design proposals.
The way I see it is that the ultimate goal of using this technology in architecture is to promote a holistic design approach. The best architect in the world would be a person who can consider everything at once. A hundred years ago, an architect did that – they had to consider pretty much everything by themselves. There was no fire safety expert, no acoustics consultant, no lighting designer, etc. Since then, the complexity of building design has exploded and it can be hard to retain oversight. I hope that virtual reality can help us get back to that intuitive, holistic approach, to some degree at least.