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Solving Design Contradictions: from Concert Halls to Hospitals

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

Image Credit: © dps | Flickr
‍Image Credit: © dps | Flickr

The big challenge for architects designing concert halls is to design the architectural acoustics to meet the needs of varying musical styles. (1)


The design challenge of a concert hall is at first glance contradictory — to foster closeness and, yet, to surround listeners with the life and essence of a music’s sound.

Different levels of intimacy and aliveness vary depending on music style. What makes this even more difficult is that, intimacy and aliveness are very difficult to quantify — thus, design for. (1)

Such contradictions exist in other architecture types. For instance, hospitals must design to cater to as many patient needs as possible while striving to keep hospital costs low. In office buildings, the need for both individual work and team work is vital – the contradiction surfaces when considering how interconnected the two should be.


Timing is everything (well, almost.)

A great hospital design could, in fact, help to meet just the right patient needs at just the right time in their healing process. This yields faster recovery and; thus, less hospital cost since patients stay for less time.

The secret is not to meet every patient need, whether they need it or not, but to meet individual patient needs at just the right time and in just the right way.

The key is to fine tune your design so you can orchestrate not just how it works, but when it works.

Instead of trying to solve two separate problems, find where they might interrelate — often, by getting to the root of each problem, you will uncover that the two are not as far apart as you once thought.

Often, what may seem to be a contradiction is really not.

(1) Thompson, Craig. Architectural Acoustics.


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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 a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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