Several nights ago, I was in the architecture studio, having found myself in the familiar situation of an all-nighter. The space has a twenty-foot ceiling, and skylights interspersed at regular intervals. At night, VAPA has a subtle hum; the building is almost empty, the activity of the daytime has ceased, and the building has an underlying whirr from the heating system. At points, all that can be heard is the quiet scratch of pencil on paper, the patient erasing, the rustle of trace.
On this particular night, however, the space was anything but quiet. Overhead, the snow had been accumulating steadily for several hours, and the wind had built in intensity. Now, the room resounded with the roar of the wind, as gusts rocked the building. The acoustics of the space and the slight muffle of the elements created the impression that I stood below-decks in a ship being tossed by the elements. More remarkable than the sound of the wind meeting the building, however, was the sound of the snow. As gusts came, the snow, loose and dry-sounding, skittered over the roof. The flurry of snow would rise in a crescendo as it moved overhead, then dissipate as the wind carried it away. The legato of the wind and the rush of the snow gave the impression of surf crashing against the shore, as successive waves broke overhead.
It’s a strange sensation to have something both protect you and yet amplify the very source that threatens. This relationship between the built and the elements serves to heighten the power of both, and raising your awareness and respect for both. Often, architecture is said to insulate its inhabitants from nature, and by this separation removing us from its gifts and importance. The power of this experience arose from the simultaneous experience of both sides of a supposed dichotomy, and through that experiencing a connection between both. Here, the room tone came from an outside actor on the space, yet brought to life the potential of the room.
listen to only the sounds inside the room
listen to only the sounds outside the room
listen to the room.