S'13 Thesis: Matthew Bertsch and Willem Boning

Matthew Bertsch and Willem Boning
M.Arch Thesis Spring 2013
Faculty Advisor: Guy Nordenson
Project Title: “From the Sound Up: Generating Form from Acoustic Preferences”

What if architects could design spaces for music starting with how they sound rather than guessing how they should look? With SoundUp software, architects can start the design process by collaborating with musicians on the acoustics of a space. An intuitive interface allows the users to “paint” their acoustic preferences, hearing the results in real-time audio simulation. The architect can then guide the generation of a corresponding geometric enclosure by setting parametric constraints ranging from site envelope to formal language to constructional limitations. 

Architects have few tools for designing how a space sounds. To design a space for music, the architect must start with a simple form known to have good acoustics, send it to an acoustician for testing, and tweak it based on the test results. As a result, most auditoriums are conservative in form and function, and the architect must be content to experiment with the outer shell of the building.

We are upending this process by developing a suite of software that allows the architect to design “from the sound up,” starting with the acoustics of a space and ending with the space’s form. Rather than guessing at an initial geometry and then fixing it to make it sound better, the architect guides the generation of form by setting parameters ranging from site envelope to construction system to the relationship between audience and performers allowing for models of sound to be translated into models for performance.