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Are we missing the Reflections in today’s acoustical designs?

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Success of any architectural design or beauty of interior aesthetics is nothing but how well it serves the purpose for which it is built for. Unfortunately, in many of the cases it is missing, especially when it comes to auditoriums, seminar halls or classrooms says V N Purandare, an independent acoustical consultant of Auditorium Acoustics.

In our part of the world that is in Indian sub-continent, majority of performing auditoriums are designed considering drama as basic design parameter. Such an auditorium is a cultural hub or centre of a village or town and multiple hubs in big cities. Many educational institutes also build the auditoriums for cultural programs of students as well as for seminars and lectures. Almost all corporates are also having auditoriums at various locations mainly for presentations, seminars & occasional cultural programs. In classroom, one of the very basic & important element of school/ college design, where understanding the subject by students is the single most important goal, acoustics is unfortunately has last priority or practically neglected by the designers as well as school management. For all these applications, audio visual connection & communication between the performer & audience is a very important.

In my opinion, success of any architectural design or beauty of interior aesthetics is nothing but how well it serves the purpose for which it is built for. Unfortunately, in many of the cases it is missing, especially when it comes to auditoriums, seminar halls or classrooms. As written by Michael Barron: “Several auditoria exist around the world where a major world-class architect has wanted to create a great public monument, but the architecture gets in the way of an effective functioning of auditorium.”

In acoustical design, what we actually find is, majority of designs, not only in India but in many parts of the world, are more focused on (sometimes only focused on) control of reverberation time by use of absorbing materials (Using only NRC figures for absorption calculations is another big mistake). This may be because

  1. Misconception of many people that only applying soft or absorbing material is acoustics.
  2. Reverberation is easier to calculate & predict.
  3. In college syllabus & teaching more pressure given on reverberation calculations.
  4. information about absorption coefficient (or just NRC) is readily available or bombarded by material suppliers.
  5. Interior decoration attracts more importance than functional needs.
  6. Sometimes international standards also focus more on Reverberation than actual performance or actual objective (as in the case of classrooms).
  7. Misguided dependency on electronics & speaker system.
  8. Tendency to expect free or cheap advice

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