Spatial representation in architecture: spatial communication through the use of sound by Errol Tout

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This PhD embodies a series of creative works rather than an analytical or purely scientific investigation.

This PhD is in accord with Rasmussen’s (1962) thoughts as published in Grueneisen (2003)
Can Architecture be heard? Most people would probably say that architecture does not produce sound, it cannot be heard. But neither does it radiate light and yet it can be seen. We see the light it reflects and therefore gain an impression of form and material. In the same way we hear the sounds it reflects and they, too, give us an impression of form and material. Differently shaped rooms and different materials reverberate differently. (p. 00.008)

Architecture is not only a visual and physical phenomenon but also an instrument that tempers and constructs our sound perceptions of the world. The projects in this PhD draw our attention to the significance of what I will term ‘aural representation’ as being a contribution in forming an understanding of a work of architecture and how architectural space conditions not only how we see the world but also how we hear it.

During my research an argument began to appear along the lines of the following: sound can be used to offer a simulation of what it may be like to be in a certain space. The sound may offer a potential description of a space and may offer information via ‘aural representation’ that drawings may not be able to offer. The sound of a space has an affordance that images do not. How might I direct these possibilities toward some useful and design-based end? The research question unfolded to become: Can sound be used to tell an audience things about space that, perhaps, images cannot? The findings from this question interact with and extend an internationally recognised body of scholarly work.

The PhD involves a series of projects. The first preliminary, exploratory projects begin to work through the questions of how sound could be used to describe space. These in turn lead to a final project involving a substantive body of creative work to help to make the knowledge gained in the PhD more explicit. This final project involves composing music for spaces based on my perceptions of their spatial sound characteristics. Each individual piece of music is based on the aural characteristics of the spaces it is created for, and in some cases, within.


Examiners:  Andy Arthurs, Stephen Barrass, Greg Schiemer  Supervisors: Professor Mark Burry, Dr Juliette Peers

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