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A Day At Arup

Last Thursday I spent an interesting four hours with David I. Taylor and two acousticians at Arup, the international engineering firm that has more recently branched out into theatre consulting as well. Taylor introduced me to Raj Patel, Arup's head of acoustics, and a younger acoustician, Ryan Biziorek. We spent quite some time in the Arup Soundlab and if you are interested in theatre history, theatre consulting, or acoustics, I suggest you call David and make an appointment to spend some time in the Soundlab... about six hours if you want the full treatment. I was only there about two-and-a-half hours and we were rushing through it all. The idea of the Soundlab is to show you—as the architect, theatre consultant, or end-user—exactly what a building will sound like. It takes the "voodoo" out of acoustics and harnesses physics in the service of the emotion and art one expects in a great hall. Arup made its mark in the performing arts world—as engineers—with the Sydney Opera House, one of the most iconic opera houses in the world, and perhaps the one that started the drive for "destination" architecture in the arts. The theory of the Soundlab is that you can hear how the great halls of the world actually hear, then work to make yours sound the same way, or as Patel puts it: "You can hear a room as it is being developed, not just hope for the best when completed." This theory has moved beyond performing arts buildings and into the arts themselves, with musicians such as Laurie Anderson and Stephen Vitiello using the Soundlab to work on projects, such as Vitiello's "Smallest Of Wings," an immersive sound environment that recreates the sounds of the rain forest in a space in the center of London. It's very cool stuff and I'm sure the folks at Arup would be happy to let you stop in and listen...

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