Evolution of architectural acoustics

Since a person or object emits a sound until it is heard by another individual, we could establish two different phases: the very emission of that sound and its reception, that is, the perception of the sound waves. But of course, for both phases to take place (especially the second), optimal conditions must be met within the room or enclosure.

Architectural acoustics is a branch of study of architecture applied to this phenomenon in particular, and which tries to provide a solution to sound control. To do this, it uses different equations that will serve to create rooms where the sound waves emitted follow the desired trajectory and intensity. The techniques used can respond to different acoustic phenomena, such as absorption, reflection, refraction, diffusion, etc.

Although it may seem like a novel concept in a certain sense, the truth is that these techniques were already applied many years ago, when the appropriate technology did not even exist to measure the quality of sound waves.

The beginning of this theory can be found thousands of years ago, with the theory of the Music of the Spheres of the mathematician Pythagoras, in which space was related for the first time with the sound. Obviously, this idea was yet to be developed, but it introduced the world to the concept that sound travels through space and can vary depending on the obstacles along the way.

The first applications of this theory also originated in Ancient Greece, a place where some Greek theaters such as the Epidaurus are still preserved, and where it is said that you could clearly perceive the voices of the actors 70 meters away from the stage. This achievement was possible thanks to an architectural design focused on achieving better acoustics, with elements such as the inclination of the stands or the strategic placement of the stage. Techniques that, by the way, the Romans would use some time later and would develop more deeply in view of the results obtained.

These techniques, being used in open spaces, pursue an efficient diffusion of direct sound, expanding it as much as possible. The change arose when trying to adapt them to closed spaces, where the reverberation of the sound, often excessive, was added to the equation. This problem was not solved until the 19th century, thanks to the physicist Wallace Clement Sabine, whom we currently know as the true precursor of modern architectural acoustics, and from whom we can attribute a before and after.

This man devised a formula capable of measuring the acoustic quality of a room according to the reverberation time, and assigned optimal reverberation times according to the purpose that room was to serve, which he reached using absorbent materials distributed throughout the room.

Since then, countless studies have been carried out on architectural acoustics and it has been developed for the different purposes to which it is applied. Currently it is still an expanding topic, without which we would not be able to experience the sound quality that we know today, and at Ideatec we want to contribute our grain of sand to this great evolution that we are witnessing in architectural acoustics.