ArchiExpo e-Magazine - #35 - Sounds Heavenly - ArchiExpo e-Magazine

Sounds Heavenly

Our May issue highlights the latest advancements in architectural acoustics from a piece on the making of Brooklyn’s National Sawdust to an article dedicated to materials and technology. In March we met both the architect and the owner of Europe’s most sustainable hotel located in Iceland, the ION. After a tour of the original ION located outside Reykjavik and surrounded completely by nature, we were given a tour of the nearly-finished city version: the ION’s double! Check out all the goodies this issue has to offer and be sure to connect with us on Twitter.


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Algorithms and sound wave tracking technology
Courtesy of Guiding Architects


Algorithms and sound wave tracking technology have led to a metamorphosis in modern concert halls to produce a richer experience for the audience. The swirling walls of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, Hamburg’s newest, were designed by Herzog and De Meuron. While it may resemble an abstract work of art,  its...

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The most complex project per square foot that we’ve ever done.
Courtesy of architect Peter Zuspan


Behind a factory façade decorated with colorful creations, the auditorium at National Sawdust is even more striking. Intersecting black lines on the white walls, floor and ceiling break up a symmetrical space to generate the illusion of irregularity.

“In any major city, a post-industrial arts space is very understandable, so we wanted that familiarity and comfort, but also something that would linger in the memory,” said architect Peter Zuspan, a founding principal at Bureau V. “When you come through the lobby, it feels completely strange and different.”

National Sawdust lobby. Courtesy of the architect.

National Sawdust lobby. Courtesy of the architect.

The zigzag channels are made from aluminum that is perforated to achieve acoustic transparency, finished with a synthetic fabric commonly used to protect the speakers of sound systems. The black channels also house technical elements such as lighting, power outlets and AV panels, eliminating visual interference from wires or cables.

The 12 interchangeable units measuring 1×2 m comprising the stage allow its configuration to be set depending on the show, with room for as much as 70 percent of a full orchestra. The auditorium is shielded by a custom 3×3 m vertically sliding door manufactured by Clark Door. It can be closed to effectively seal the space during acoustically sensitive performances.

Despite a strong synthesis between functionality and eye-catching aesthetics, some of the most intriguing innovations at National Sawdust—which opened in 2015—are not visible to concert-goers. Bureau V worked closely with engineers at Arup, a firm which uses proprietary data modeling software to simulate the acoustics of a space,a sonic parallel to architectural visualizations.

National Sawdust

National Sawdust floor plan. Courtesy of the architect

“National Sawdust was the most complex project per square foot that we’ve ever done,” said consultant Matthew Mahon, who has been with the company since 2008. He identifies the most unusual feature as a set of velour curtains that hang between the acoustically transparent “skin” of the auditorium and the concrete outer wall; they allow the room to be tuned to artistic needs.

national sawdust architecture iweiss theatrical solutions archiexpo emag design

“Massive” black and white velour drapery surround Brooklyn’s music venue, National Sawdust, creating an “acoustic envelope”. iWeiss Theatrical Solutions built and installed a line-shaft for lighting positions and all of the drapery is hanging on iWeiss curtain track and attached by custom brackets into the solid concrete shell.

“It’s always going to look the same, even though we’re changing the acoustics,” Mahon told ArchiExpo e-Magazine. “When the concrete walls are exposed, it makes the room more reflective. When the drapes are in place, it becomes drier and less reverberative, which is more appropriate for amplified music.”

The auditorium is a box within the old factory shell surrounded by about 60 springs to absorb vibrations from trains rumbling their way from Manhattan to Brooklyn. “If you go to a movie in New York, you hear the subway,” said Zuspan of Bureau V. “The building precludes that noise because the sprung area is totally insulated.”

National Sawdust

National Sawdust exterior

You’ll want to check out this article and podcast entitled Reverb: The Evolution of Architectural Acoustics by 99% Invisible.

Check out the latest acoustic suspended ceilings on the virtual exhibition site ArchiExpo.

Within the city of Reykjavik
Courtesy of ION

The land of fire and ice renders luxury difficult, and while most hotels in Iceland harness a rustic style, the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel takes classy comfort to a new level: simple crème-de-la-crème beauty with a sustainable icing. Award winning L.A.-based design studio Minarc completed the Ion Hotel in 2013,...

Fullpage Concept Urbain

Courtesy of the Design Hostel

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Sleeping With DESIGN-Design Hostel began as creator Davide Crippa’s answer to a Milano Design Week dilemma—designers need both exhibition space and a place to...

Courtesy of Studio Susanne de Graef

Four powder-coated steel rings align vertically to resemble the crinoline, a 19th century hoop skirt. The 180 multi-colored polyester threads which connect to...

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  • Courtesy of the NYCxDesign guide

    In May at the Brooklyn Expo Center in the Greenpoint neighborhood, the design fair Bklyn Designs is one of the most vibrant shows in New York City and one of the anchors of the citywide NYCxDESIGN initiative. It showcased the wares of designers from the trendsetting  borough, which, according to some accounts, gave birth to the hipster lifestyle.

    The emphasis throughout the show was on clean, modern lines with little reference to decorative frills. This being hipster Brooklyn, there also was a fair amount of wood furniture with an emphasis on environmental concerns and recycling.

    One of the most striking displays was from Greenery NYC, which brings the outdoors indoors with various plant installations. This includes low-maintenance interior wall dividers comprised of plants, plant islands, shelving units made of plants and even ivy-covered interior columns. One key aspect is watering systems that can go for weeks without refilling.

    “The idea is to make it so the customer doesn’t get saddled with large opportunity costs,” said Rebecca Bullene, the company’s founder, who has greened the offices of e-commerce giant Etsy and the New York headquarters of Ted Talks.

    A standout among the many wood craftspeople displaying was Mark Jupiter, who uses reclaimed wood from rare species in about 50 percent of his pieces. There was a rich grained wood and metal cabinet made from what Jupiter said was probably two-thousand-year-old redwood from the remains of an old New York City water tower. Jupiter also showed a bench made from old warehouse beams put through a Japanese wood firing technique called Shou Sugi Ban, which results in a textured black alligator skin-like surface.

    For a borough with so many hipster millennials who make their living with technology, it was striking to see displays by designers who sought to minimize or camouflage the gadgets that are proliferating throughout the modern home. The design firm Onebutton showed speakers all but invisible within sheetrock walls, wallpaper-thin televisions and stylish custom light switches that looked like knobs embedded in brass plates.

    The Connected Home exhibition, by the Brooklyn based electronics store AJ Madison and interior designer Gunnar Larson, featured WiFi enabled and certified energy-saving appliances from Frigidaire, GE, LG, Bosch and Samsung. Larson’s streamlined design gave them a subdued look, resulting in a slightly retro kitchen.

    “A lot of technology is cold,” explained Larson, a tall young man with a hipster beard, referring to  his inspiration for making a display that evokes a simpler time.


    A Master at Working Wood


    During the May event, internationally acclaimed Irish furniture designer Joseph Walsh came to New York City, where his work was both the subject of a panel discussion at the New York School of Interior Design and an extensive exhibition at the elegant Fifth Avenue Beaux Arts townhouse that serves as the headquarters of the Irish American Historical Society.

    “Nobody has pushed the boundaries of design like this since Michael Thonet ,” declared the prominent design curator and scholar Glenn Adamson at the panel discussion.  This 19th century German designer is the inventor of bentwood furniture. A series of slides showed Walsh’s limited edition pieces, including an enormous, elliptical wood sculpture that appears to defy gravity, and which is slated for display at the National Gallery of Ireland in June.

    Wood is malleable material in Walsh’s hands. It appears that there is no shape that he cannot make. Tables and chairs from his Lillium collection, which is intended to collapse the boundary between living and manmade objects, curve and bloom in intricate patterns akin to flower petals. The leg supports of the Enignum Vl canopy bed rise to form a semicircular cocoon.


    The Lillium collection by Joseph Walsh

    The Lillium collection by Joseph Walsh


    “The form is informed by the materials. We bend the material and allow the timber to find its own shape,” Walsh said, stopping in front of a rocking chair made entirely of bentwood during a tour of the Irish Historical Society.

    The controlled randomness of Walsh’s method results in one-of-a-kind pieces, even within series, such as a set of sensuous-legged chairs he made for the Chatsworth estate in England. In contrast to mass produced furniture, Walsh said that the variations in his work speak to the fact that each piece was created, “at a particular moment in time.”

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    Courtesy of Gonçalo Campos

    Born in the seaside town of Oeiras near Portugal’s capital Lisbon, 30-year-old designer Gonçalo Campos has acquired international recognition. Gonçalo tells ArchiExpo e-Magazine about his story:

    In 2008 he was invited to participate in the exclusive group of young designers at Benetton’s design think tank, Fabrica, in Italy, established in 1994. There, Gonçalo got a taste for design through travel and experience beyond the textbook.

    “Fabrica is indeed a very special place. We get to learn a lot from the design world that is beyond our college education. It completely opens your mind and senses towards new possibilities,” he says.

    Such an adventure may be at the root of why the young designer bounces from city to city, soaking up design culture:

    “I like to get to know different markets, exhibitions and professionals.”

    fabrica italy design young talent

    Courtesy of Fabrica


    Currently based in Paris, Gonçalo has lived in numerous cities, including London, Porto and Berlin. He doesn’t usually stay for long in any one location, hinting that Eastern Europe might be his next move.

    Such global experience and vision gave Gonçalo a clearer view of the importance of design today in Portugal. He feels optimistic:

    “Thanks to my work with Wewood, I can say I am very much in the frontline when it comes to the interaction between designers and businessmen. Portuguese companies are becoming more interested in working with design professionals. As a small country where export is the only way a local company can really grow, businessmen know that design is vital for the growth of their companies.”

    Gonçalo also has some valuable advice for young aspirants in this field:


    It is vital that designers adapt to the reality of the market before trying to impose our own concepts of reality. This requires time and extensive dialogue.


    Exemplifying the Designer’s Hand


    Gonçalo designed the Metis table and the XI Bookshelf for Wewood, a Portuguese furniture company specializing in solid wood. Formerly a frequent design partner, Gonçalo now works as Wewood’s design director.

    Wewood’s idea for the Metis table was a desk with integrated storage space. Gonçalo then decided to angle the drawer front, making access easier, and to chamfer the desktop to make it more comfortable for the wrists. Small details, big difference. And a hinged compartment with a secret drawer is included!

    Metis desik

    Metis desik

    No screws or glue are needed to assemble the  perfectly interlocking boards of the XI Bookshelf. The “X” bracing provides stability, while the slanted “I” allows for longer shelves. Since putting each component in the right position can be complicated, Gonçalo came up with a neat solution: engrave the instructions on the components themselves.


    No more lost assembly instructions.

    XI bookshelf to use

    The designer worked for recently launched French company Polit to bring his Times 4 coffee table to life. Storage doesn’t always have to mean drawers, and Gonçalo wanted to try something different. The top of the round table covers only three quarters of the surface, the cutout revealing an internal Lazy Susan that provides storage.


    Changing the way things function is fun.
    It does not always work, but this time it did.


    Ana Luiza Daltro

    A native of São Paulo, Ana Luiza Daltro is a former economics and business reporter from VEJA magazine who currently writes for three e-magazines within VirtualExpo group.

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    Frederick Bernas

    Frederick Bernas is a journalist, filmmaker and photographer living in Latin America.

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    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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    Vanessa Liwanag

    Vanessa Liwanag, is an MBA alumni of the prestigious Mod’Art International in Paris and founder of Creative Talents Worldwide.

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    Hilary Edesess

    Hilary Edesess is a freelance journalist based in Marseille, France. She blogs about culture, art and urban design.

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    Alex Ulam

    Alex Ulam is a freelance journalist and design critic based in New York.

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    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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