Weather Acoustics

“Earth is a solar powered jukebox” – Gordon W. Hempton

Sound as a natural acoustic phenomenon is an exploration which involves the study of weather, environment and natural landscapes. In human nature, the fascination with sound is often derived from a search for sensory depth – sound allows us to experience a rhythmic pattern which connects us to the environment without being hindered by the visual aesthetics.

“If you manage to block out all sound, you will have no trouble looking around at the warp and woof of the world, but you will feel an outsider, detached from the goings on. Sound puts us into the picture, or makes the picture more than an image.” – David Rothenberg

Sound that is influenced by weather has been collected and documented by scientists and sound enthusiasts alike. Natural acoustic phenomenons include examples such as Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland where complete silence is only broken by a creaking a groaning of the glaciers in the wind, and the stalactites of caves in Louray, Virgina that are able to harness reverberations similar to pipes of an organ.

Jökulsárlón

Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

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Stalactites in Virginia

Moroccan environment

As well as being arid and dry, coastal regions of Morocco are extremely windy. Below I have collected some initial data on wind speeds at eight wind farms in Morocco – together they are currently producing 800 megawatts of power per year (1 megawatt powers on average 1000 homes).

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The windiest town is Tarfaya with wind speed highs of 31km/h and average of 24km/h.

Apparatus to harvest wind

Investigation into the interplay of acoustics and sound with weather and environment continued by looking into ways which wind in Morocco could be harvested in the form of frequencies to generate particular sounds. This was found in the Helmholtz resonance phenomenon, named after German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz was successful in demonstrating that air cavities have sonic resonance through ‘resonators.’

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Helmholtz and his resonators

A similar experience is found by blowing air across the opening of a bottle. The air pressure from the mouth presses the air in the neck of the bottle downwards, initiating an elasticity inside its chamber. The air inside vibrates, moving up and down, generating a frequency or tone.

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The sound is made by the sound wave frequencies moving in and out of the bottle and this frequency of sound can be manipulated by changing the characteristics of the bottle (e.g. material, size and shape of hole, neck and chamber). By determining which certain frequencies are preferred vessels can be arranged accordingly and give rise to an architectural intervention.

An example of such intervention can be interpreted in the architecture of the Sea Organ (also known as morske orgulje) in Croatia. A similar apparatus is constructed in harvesting air as waves that flood the underwater pipes. The neck is similar to a large whistle, along with the chamber underneath the steps, is tuned to play seven chords of five tones.

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Morske Orgulje in Croatia

 

Architectural intervention

Similarly, an architectural mechanism can collect desert winds to influence sound. Using Helmholtz resonance, desired frequencies can be used to formulate a compositional rule to drive the architectural parametrics of the project.

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Shadow Pavilion by PLY Architecture follows a similar idea which uses parametric rule to govern the packing of their elements. As well as play with shadow and light, the elements are arranged to maximise the intake of sound within its surrounding environment.

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Shadow Pavilion by PLY Architecture

Material Exploration

Acoustics experimentation on different materials will ultimately determine the final choice of material. Initial thinking drew towards ceramics and porcelain to reverberate sound.

 

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Examples of ceramic and porcelain

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Le Cylindre Sonore by Bernard Leitner

Le Cylindre Sonore by Bernard Leitner uses ceramics to reverberate and maximise sound. The walls of the Leitner’s architectural chamber are lined with ceramic tiles which help enhance frequencies produced by loud speakers inbedded in the concrete wall.

Through new technologies such as CNC router and 3D printing, endless form-work can be generated to then mass-produce materials tests of various designs. These experimentation will prove instrumental to the design and development of the proposed acoustic apparatus to potentially harvest wind in the coastal deserts of Morocco.

 

Bibliography:

Cummings, J. (2016). ACOUSTIC ECOLOGY | Soundscape Links. http://www.acousticecology.org/soundscapelinks.html

Hempton, G. The Last Quiet Places: Silence and the Presence of Everything. Radio podcast: Being with Krista Tippet. http://www.onbeing.org/program/last-quiet-places/4557

Henderson, C. (2014). Sonic Wonderland by Trevor Cox – review. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/17/sonic-wonderland-trevor-cox-review

Manaugh, G. Music/Sound/Noise in: The BLDG BLOG Book. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books LLC, pp.141-169.

Pierrot, M. (2016). Morocco – Countries – Online access – The Wind Power. http://www.thewindpower.net/country_en_28_morocco.php

RimstarOrg. Why Blowing in Bottles Makes Sound. (2014). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZVeJ2rh6ts

Wolfe, J. (2016). Helmholtz Resonance. http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/Helmholtz.html

 

 

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