99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we dont think about the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.



Roman Mars:

This is 99% Invisible. Im Roman Mars.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Here at the San Francisco Main Library-

 

Roman Mars:

And that is Dennis Paoletti.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

If you walk into the library, theres a five-story atrium.

 

Roman Mars:

Hes an acoustic designer.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

And it also is very hard and reflective with all the plaster, concrete, reflective materials.

 

Roman Mars:

Companies hire him to make their buildings and boardrooms and cathedrals and public spaces sound better.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

In an early scheme, the architect had the main information desk right in the middle of that floorplan in the center of that five-story atrium. The commotion that would go on, it would be disastrous for the people who had to work there. To try to hear the visitors coming in, asking for things and to try to communicate. One of the things we recommend was to just tuck that information desk off the atrium and just tuck it under some of the mezzanines. Pretty simple, pretty minor, but to me, it just made such an improvement. I always liked that solution.

 

Roman Mars:

That smart and simple choice to tuck the information desk over to the left side so patrons and librarians could actually hear each other created a wide-open circular entranceway. And no one really knows how to walk across it without bumping into someone else. So this beautiful, 140 million dollar building has an added feature that certainly was not on the architects plans. Its a hack: a jankity retractable movie theater-style velvet rope partition that helps create the proper traffic flow. And there, fifteen feet apart from one another, is a minor triumph and a minor failure of design.

 

[MUSIC]

 

Roman Mars:

In the epic of Gilgamesh, the gods get so infuriated with the noisiness of their human neighbors, that they send a flood to wipe us all out. And when you walk around the city, its pretty easy to side with the gods in that scenario.

 

Roman Mars:

What is noise?

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Noise, very simply, is unwanted sound. It used to be called environmental noise, but in recent years, people have been looking at a citys environment as something unique to that city. In San Francisco, the cable cars are always an interesting point of discussion. Is that sound or is that noise? Well, for the tourism business in San Francisco, thats sound. Thats good. Thats money. But believe it or not, weve been called in by people who are annoyed by the sound of those clanking bells or the cables that run under the street.

 

Roman Mars: The job of an acoustic design is not just to make things quieter. Sometimes the best way to design a space to have less noise is to add more sound.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

A reading room in a library.

 

Voiceover:

Quiet, quiet, quiet.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

It is so quiet that anybody flipping a page in a book turns out to distract everyone else. The problem acoustically? The background noise level! Its literally too quiet. We often come to spaces like that and add background noise.

 

Roman Mars:

Thats why small parks in cities have fountains. And if they dont, they need one. They may be visually pleasing, but the sound might even matter more.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Fountains give you this comfort level of acoustical privacy. Masking unwanted noise.

 

Roman Mars:

Whats your noise?

 

Dennis Paoletti:

You wanna know what annoys me? When Im home, and thats my place to relax, the neighbors always start mowing the lawn.

 

Roman Mars:

Your action item of the day is to listen. Not to people, people are annoying. Listen to the city. And let me know, whats your favorite sound. And whats your noise? And how is it enhanced or drowned out by design of the city you live in or the building you spend most of your time. Leave your comments at 99percentnvisible.org. 99% Invisible is produced by me, Roman Mars, with support from Lunar Design. Its a project of KALW, the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco, and the Center for Architecture and Design.

  














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Podcast | Noise

 


99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we dont think about the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.



Roman Mars:

This is 99% Invisible. Im Roman Mars.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Here at the San Francisco Main Library-

 

Roman Mars:

And that is Dennis Paoletti.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

If you walk into the library, theres a five-story atrium.

 

Roman Mars:

Hes an acoustic designer.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

And it also is very hard and reflective with all the plaster, concrete, reflective materials.

 

Roman Mars:

Companies hire him to make their buildings and boardrooms and cathedrals and public spaces sound better.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

In an early scheme, the architect had the main information desk right in the middle of that floorplan in the center of that five-story atrium. The commotion that would go on, it would be disastrous for the people who had to work there. To try to hear the visitors coming in, asking for things and to try to communicate. One of the things we recommend was to just tuck that information desk off the atrium and just tuck it under some of the mezzanines. Pretty simple, pretty minor, but to me, it just made such an improvement. I always liked that solution.

 

Roman Mars:

That smart and simple choice to tuck the information desk over to the left side so patrons and librarians could actually hear each other created a wide-open circular entranceway. And no one really knows how to walk across it without bumping into someone else. So this beautiful, 140 million dollar building has an added feature that certainly was not on the architects plans. Its a hack: a jankity retractable movie theater-style velvet rope partition that helps create the proper traffic flow. And there, fifteen feet apart from one another, is a minor triumph and a minor failure of design.

 

[MUSIC]

 

Roman Mars:

In the epic of Gilgamesh, the gods get so infuriated with the noisiness of their human neighbors, that they send a flood to wipe us all out. And when you walk around the city, its pretty easy to side with the gods in that scenario.

 

Roman Mars:

What is noise?

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Noise, very simply, is unwanted sound. It used to be called environmental noise, but in recent years, people have been looking at a citys environment as something unique to that city. In San Francisco, the cable cars are always an interesting point of discussion. Is that sound or is that noise? Well, for the tourism business in San Francisco, thats sound. Thats good. Thats money. But believe it or not, weve been called in by people who are annoyed by the sound of those clanking bells or the cables that run under the street.

 

Roman Mars: The job of an acoustic design is not just to make things quieter. Sometimes the best way to design a space to have less noise is to add more sound.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

A reading room in a library.

 

Voiceover:

Quiet, quiet, quiet.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

It is so quiet that anybody flipping a page in a book turns out to distract everyone else. The problem acoustically? The background noise level! Its literally too quiet. We often come to spaces like that and add background noise.

 

Roman Mars:

Thats why small parks in cities have fountains. And if they dont, they need one. They may be visually pleasing, but the sound might even matter more.

 

Dennis Paoletti:

Fountains give you this comfort level of acoustical privacy. Masking unwanted noise.

 

Roman Mars:

Whats your noise?

 

Dennis Paoletti:

You wanna know what annoys me? When Im home, and thats my place to relax, the neighbors always start mowing the lawn.

 

Roman Mars:

Your action item of the day is to listen. Not to people, people are annoying. Listen to the city. And let me know, whats your favorite sound. And whats your noise? And how is it enhanced or drowned out by design of the city you live in or the building you spend most of your time. Leave your comments at 99percentnvisible.org. 99% Invisible is produced by me, Roman Mars, with support from Lunar Design. Its a project of KALW, the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco, and the Center for Architecture and Design.

  














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