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Ocean Plaza covers four stories and uses different speakers at each level to
create an auditory journey—the lowest plays underwater bubbles, and you
move up through splashing, waves, and breezes. The Floral Plaza then plays a
nature ambience of birds calling and insects buzzing.
But although the spaces and soundscapes are unusual, that doesn’t mean
they’re nonsensical. The staggering sensory experiences are designed to keep
users interested in the space. “The idea with the plazas was to let people come
for a moment of pause and a bit of tranquility, and to create a setting that
would encourage them to stay and linger,” explained Hallberg. “It was important
to have quite a lot of variety so that the sounds wouldn’t be repetitive.”
When introducing sound into a building, consider the type of environment
you’re creating and how it will make people feel, added Hallberg. “To aim for
complete silence is not always the right way to create a calm and safe place.
Some people can rather experience silence as cold and exposing,” he said.
“With Emporia, the aim was to create a warm, open, and playful environment
that encourages visitors to feel free.”
When designing a space, you’re sure to account for sight and touch (likewise, when selecting products, we constantly consider
how a material looks and feels). And our friends in
hospitality take care of taste and smell—whether
it’s chefs concocting tapas to enliven your palate or
hotels wafting floral aromas to invite guests to relax.
But has one of the senses gone unheard?
Acoustics are easy to overlook. “In many contexts,
sound is used without thought,” said Martin Hallberg,
creative director of Radja Sound Design Agency, which
designs acoustic strategies for commercial spaces.
“Instead, we should use sound as the magnificent tool
it actually is and make demands on how we want both
our environment and products to sound.”
The firm recently evoked unique auditory
designs at the Emporia shopping center in Malmö,
Sweden, and won a Red Dot Communication
Design Award for its efforts. Take a look at what the
team did (and head online for a listen!) to make sure
your acoustic strategies are sound.
Emporia contains six plazas that are different in
appearance, and their acoustics reflect those differences. Four of the smaller spaces are distinguished
by color—the red is a playful square, inspired by
a tuba, percussion, and whimsical orchestra; the
indigo is accompanied by a cello, while conjuring
an icy winter and night sky; the pink is a microcosm
of the cosmos that combines glowing organisms
and bursts of fire with electronic tones; and the
amber simulates the feeling of stepping onto holy
ground as vocal soloists and choruses play in the
If this sounds unorthodox, that’s because it is.
The two large expanses are equally eccentric. The
ABOVE + LEFT
Throughout the four
levels of this plaza,
occupants dive into an
auditory journey. The
begins at the beach
with breezes and bird
sounds, crashes through
the waves, and splashes
into underwater bubbles.
Emporia’s acoustics are
the creation of Radja
Sound Design Agency.
A shopping center abroad is making noise in the world of acoustics.
By Chris Curtland