When I was a kid, going to the airport was just shy of
being an astronaut. For me, it
was like Disneyland – but with
real jets. And of course, there
was the fascinating echo of the
main lobby, which my brother
and I hooted and hollered loudly into with glee until my mother
Acoustics in transportation
hubs like airports, train sta-
tions and rapid transit bus stops should not be ignored,
as they impact us more than we think. With over a century
of mechanized travel behind us to learn from, we now
know that even 10 hours a week of regular travel can be
exhausting due to auditory fatigue alone. In major cities,
a significant portion of the population drives or commutes
an hour each way to work five times a week. With growing
numbers of the population commuting into cities, trans-
portation has become a key element in urban design and,
consequently, so has acoustics.
Acoustics is tied inexorably to materials. Hard sur-
faces result in echoes and reverberation, leading to noise,
fatigue, unintelligibility and overall poor-sounding spaces.
Most airports, train terminals and bus stops are made with
metal, stone, tile, glass or some variety of hard surface.
Consequently, these new spaces acoustically replicate
the historical spaces which they replace. However, with
the proper mindset and knowledge of materials, an urban
transportation hub designer can simultaneously achieve a
sense of grandeur and intimacy, acoustically.
As air travel continues to grow, so must airports.
Airports are well traveled public spaces with enormous
numbers of people passing through them daily. In 2012,
LAX alone was home for a day to 175,000 travelers. By
necessity, this type of traffic requires the use of durable
and washable floors, walls, railings, kiosks and furniture.
Because of this, the nature of high traffic public spaces is
antithetical to a good acoustic environment.
The solution? Accept the high traffic areas, like floors,
railings and kiosks, as a baseline requirement and address
areas which have less wear and tear: walls above head
high, ceilings, suspended artwork and seating. In these
areas, dual- or triple-purpose acoustic devices, panels and
materials can be used to control sound and provide isolation ➤
Hanson Hsu provides
in-depth options for
quieting down busy
interiors | THEORY | By Hanson Hsu | Images courtesy of shutterstock
ABOVE When addressing
noise in an airport, start
with areas which will have
less wear and tear, such as
ceilings, suspended artwork