The Sound of Architecture

When the symposium “The Sound of Architecture” kicks off this evening at the Yale School of Architecture, designers in skinny jeans and square black glasses may well be outnumbered by a cast of artists, musicologists, engineers, and even an archeoacoustician for good measure. Though Friday’s keynote will be delivered by architectural luminary Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the weekend’s program will be populated by some decidedly un-architectural figures.

The lineup of speakers and performers, drawing upon a broad array of disciplines, is designed to take the aural dimension of architecture beyond the exclusive domain of the acoustic technicians who meticulously tune the contours of concert halls and theaters.

“Acoustics have been important to designers since the days of Vitruvius,” says co-organizer and Yale PhD candidate Joseph Clarke. “But architects often tend to think and design visually, with sound relegated to a secondary role. By bringing together a range of speakers across so many different disciplines, this symposium seeks to breathe new life into study of the sonic dimensions of architecture.”

Some of the highlights include:

  • A talk titled “The Ear, the Eye, and the Space,” by Craig Hodgetts, architect of the Hollywood Bowl’s newest incarnation.
  • A performance of composer Ingram Marshall’s work “Alcatraz,” blending images, music and “found audio” of buoys, birds, and cell doors.
  • John D. Peters of the University of Iowa taking a close look at Mormons’ role as acousticians.
  • Sound studies star Jonathan Sterne, author of “MP3: The Meaning of a Format” discussing “A Simple Theory of Convolution Reverb.”


In keeping with the symposium’s expansive reach, Yale professor and former Slate editor JD Connor will deliver a talk titled “Carchitecture” on Saturday morning. Connor will examine the changing automotive soundscape through the lens of advertising.

Connor takes as a starting point David Ogilvy’s iconic 1956 ad which declared that “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” He goes on to examine some more recent automotive advertising gems for what they reveal about our evolving relationship to these meticulously engineered spaces.

In a sneak peek of the talk, Connor has provided us with a few of his examples below. Hear anything you like?

Pioneer’s bizzare 1980’s stereofaces:

Hyundai’s Azera, directed by Wes anderson

Ford Focus symphony:

The symposium, “The Sound of Architecture” runs from Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon at the Yale School of Architecture.

Jordan Pierce, a native of Oakland, CA, is a Masters of Architecture student at the Yale School of Architecture.

Categories: Design