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    Design You Can't See: Arup's Sound Portal

    Far from a newcomer in auditory visuals, Arup has been innovating with sound since 1946 and has worked on major commissions in the field such as the Sydney Opera House and the aquatics center for the Beijing Olympics. Last year, Ben Evans of the London Design Festival approached them to build something for Trafalgar Square. 


    The Be Open Sound Portal was a black EPDM rubber pavilion comprised of segments of concentric circles. It referenced Stanley Kubrick's monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey in its external inscrutability. "We developed an envelope that would mask a lot of the chaotic noise and bustle of Trafalgar Square," says Phillips, "to provide a cocoon which is intriguing and an interior space that is ideal for experiencing the ambisonic sound pieces."

    Arup collaborated with the arts organization Sound and Music to commission these sound pieces, settling on five international artists, including Tom Jenkinson, better known as famed electronica producer Squarepusher, and Ivan Pavlov, the experimental sound artist who records and performs as CoH.


    "The sound pieces were played through 9 individual channels," Phillips continues. "By sitting on the circular bench in the centre of the sound portal, listeners experienced a sweet spot, where the different elements of the sound pieces moved and converged. Two sub woofers housed in the central bench allowed listeners to feel the lower frequency sounds through the seat of their pants!"


    The pavilion will soon take up residence next to the Tate Britain, giving students at Chelsea College of Art the chance to design sound environments in an immersive, unique structure. 



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