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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Hear Here — an acoustic theatre – Ric Lipson

Hear Here — an acoustic theatre – Ric Lipson
  • On December 28, 2009

Sound is an integral part of the way we understand the space surrounding us. Size, quality, timbre, texture and the atmosphere of a space can all be inferred by the way in which we experience sound. Based on ideas from the Suffolk island of Orford Ness, Ric Lipson’s acoustic theatre ‘Hear Here” has been developed over a preoccupation with the acoustic qualities of circular spaces and ambient sonic landscapes. His work features in ‘Digital Architecture: Passages Through Hinterlands‘.

Ric Lipson‘s Hear Here concerns itself with sound and the body aiming to generate a physical construct that, while taking physics, music and architecture into account, sets out to explore how space can be understood through sound. If architecture is the manipulation of space, then the built form is a way of capturing the ambient. At the core of this question is the way space is experienced as a function of the sounds found both within and around the space, and the sounds that result from occupancy of the space.

The building is the final movement in the score of this experiential journey concerning itself with sound and the body. By giving concepts physical form, the experience can be explored. It is a tourable, demountable structure. By exploring concepts of resonance, reflection, absorption, forced and natural, the work creates a ‘sonic geography’ framed within a physical construct that invites you to explore, listen, improvise and experience.


Comprising a monocoque, aluminium, open cone wrapped within a closed, tensioned, plywood structure, the two spaces act in combination to echo the form of the ear. The outer ear is the space in-between the wooden and aluminium skin, and it has a soft acoustic. Sounds reflect around the walls in a whispering gallery-type nature. The audience follow the sounds around the dark outer corridor and are ‘cleansed’ of what John Cage would describe as the “chaos of the everyday sounds”. The journey around the structure leads the audience into the inner drum. The aluminium cone is open to the world. It is bright and metallic, both in form and acoustic.

This ‘Acoustic Theatre’ combines the world of manufacture, with the ephemeral nature of the ambient. The structure becomes a frame for the sound to exist. The audience are invited to enter and listen. The inner metal skin acts as an instrument, listening to the outer world and playing it back through a set of speakers. These sounds reflect and reverberate around the space. Essentially the pavilion is an ear capturing sounds from its immediate environment. Its geometries can intensify, resonate and distort these found sounds and act as a passive instrument, playing sounds of the city based on the occupier’s position within the structure.

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