Sound Modernities? Histories of Architecture, Design and Space

June 15 |
10:00 to 18:00

Sabine von Fischer, Olga Touloumi, Viktoria Tkaczyk

Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Villa, Harnackstr. 5, 14195 Berlin, Seminarraum

The past decade has seen a growing number of studies of sound design and acoustic technologies. These attempts to engage with the acoustic aspects of culture have brought forth questions concerning noise and silence, communication and resonance, and insulation and transmission, making these into key terms in the investigation of knowledge production. Yet the role of sound in the production of the built environment, and the function of architecture and design in shaping acoustic modalities, remain largely uncharted territory. Addressing this large gap, the project “Sound Modernities: Architecture, Media, and Design” investigates the ways in which architects have addressed the aural environment in their practice and discourse, with a focus on the relationship between design practices and the technologies of modern acoustics and communication.

During the twentieth century, modern architectural acoustics, in tandem with sound technologies such as the radio and telecommunication networks, gave rise to notions of endless and unproblematic connectivity. Telecommunication networks connected the urban fabric by circulating information, and seemed capable of collapsing geographical, political, and social differences. These new infrastructures and technologies challenged previous theorizations of the public sphere and promised new models of participa—tory democracy and media transparency. In this context, architects and designers made sound a central field of inquiry, a material to build with and a concept to think with. They recognized that sound actively shaped modern built environments. Approaching architecture as a medium that not only absorbs and reflects other social and political forces, but also produces them, “Sound Modernities” launches a critical discussion on the aural history of space and the spatial history of aurality. 





Discussion of Sample Chapters for "Sound Modernities? Architecture, Media and Design"

10:00-10:15    Welcome Coffee


10:15 - 10:30  

Welcome Remarks, Viktoria Tkaczyk (MPIWG/HU)

Introduction, Sabine von Fischer (EPF Lausanne) and Olga Touloumi (Bard College)


10:30 - 12:30  

Discussion of sample chapters, Gretta Tritch Roman (Bard College) and Shundana Yusaf (University of Utah)


12:30 - 13:30  Lunch


Themes and Methods for an Architectural History of Sound

13:30 - 14:00  

Introduction, Olga Touloumi (Bard College)


14:00 - 15:30  


Listening and the League of Nations: Acoustics Are the Argument, Sabine von Fischer (EPF Lausanne)

Lines for Listening, Carlotta Daro (ENSAP)



Sound Medicine: The Acoustic Environment of the Modern Hospital, David Theodore (McGill University)

Sonic Refugia: Nature, Noise-Abatement, and Landscape Design in West Berlin, Sandra Jasper (University of Cambridge)

Respondents: Viktoria Tkaczyk (MPIWG/HU) and Hansjakob Ziemer (MPIWG)


15:30 - 16:00   Coffee Break


16:00 - 17:30


Archiving the Voice: Alvar Aalto's Poetry Room and the Modern Library, Olga Touloumi (Bard College)

The Porous Shells of Radiophony, Shundana Yusaf (University of Utah)



Padded Sounds: The Latent Aurality of Anechoic Chambers, Raviv Ganchrow (Institute of Sonology, The Hague)

The Sonic Lives of Courtyard Mosques and Mosque Courtyards in Berlin, Peter McMurray (Harvard University)

Respondents: Daniel Barber (UPenn/RCC) and Roland Wittje (IIT Madras)


17:30 - 17:45    

Sound & Science: Digital Histories - A Database on the Epistemes of Acoustics, Joeri Bruyninckx (MPIWG)


17:45 - 18:00    

Closing Remarks, Sabine von Fischer (EPF Lausanne)







Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Villa,
Harnackstraße 5,
14195 Berlin, Germany