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Should You Add Sound to Your Building Design?

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Ethan Hein | Flickr

It’s hard to find a quiet place on earth anymore. Human-caused noise seems to be everywhere, and that’s because it is. (1) Our living environments are “soundscapes”, and “noise” quickly becomes a relative term.

Yes, your architecture greatly contributes to the “soundscape” that people experience. Soundwithin your building is greatly linked with functions going on within it, but what about the design of sounds that you purposefully inject and mold into your project?


For architects, it is common to be concerned with the elimination of sound, otherwise referred to as noise. Some hospitals are filled with noise that keep patients from sleeping “soundly” (pun intended) and some schools are bombarded by urban noise that interferes with learning.

For some, these are just manifestations of modern living — where there is a fine line between sound and noise depending on who and when is listening. For architects, closer attention should be given to this phenomenon.


As you design architectural complexes ranging from an urban master plan to an individual building project, you need to keep both sound and noise in mind. You should be asking yourself not only what noise you want to keep out, but also what sounds you want to encourage.

Most all places on earth today have their own “soundscape”, but few are deliberate and designed. Think of your architectural projects as having their own sound spectrum where the sounds you hear were consciously thought out and intentional.

Architecture is more than just a visual experience. Pay close attention to how the sounds your occupant will experience contribute to or take away from your designed spaces. Their thoughts, behavior and emotions are all affected by sound. In fact, they use sound as stimuli that contributes to the processing of their other senses.

Give your occupants an aural journey through your space.


(1) Barone, Jennifer. What Do Urban Sounds Do to Your Brain? Discover Magazine. July 24, 2009.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is an award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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