Michael Riebel
Paula Friar
Michelle Tomlinson
Chloe Marshall

Envisaging their presentation as an ‘Architect’s Symphony’, Hawkins Brown’s team offered a ‘suite in Collaborative major’, comprising four pieces in three movements each – Allegro, Presto and Andante.

Each piece  – correlated to the RIBA plan of work – represented a portion of the design process, and a tuning of the acoustic environment.


In musical terms, they suggested a return to the pre-modern mode of regarding sound as a layer within a multi-sensory environment, in contrast to formal performance before a silent and static audience that emerged during the nineteenth century.


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The team tested their ideas through a highly structured analysis of sound in Hawkins Brown’s own offices before and after its recent rearrangement, looking at the ‘reception’, ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘focus space’ areas. ‘Soundscapes’ of individual areas were developed, and represented through recordings that were revealing of the nature of the everyday sounds in such spaces.

To visualise these, a form of graphic notation was developed in which nested and overlapping circles are overlaid on sonograms derived from the recordings.

Ben Burgess, acoustician and associate director of Buro Happold, was enthusiastic about the attempt to tangibly convey the acoustic environment in a graphic language, suggesting it could be more elegant than conventional scientific acoustic modelling tools.