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Parametric Acoustic Sculpture in the Dome with a Sound Visualization System

Due to the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States and to maintain  a high teaching quality, Virginia Tech School of Architecture has deployed several outdoor  teaching spaces, including the Dome. The Dome is located west of Cowgill Hall, it takes the  form of half of the C-60 structure with a diameter of 60 feet. While the semisphere is derived  of a lightweight steel structure and vinyl membrane system that provides a tall overhead space,  it has created a unique acoustic environment that opens up opportunities to study sound and  reverberation. 

A student - faculty team led by Shengqi Wang will design and install a parametric acoustic  sculpture to turn the existing dome structure into an acoustically usable space for teaching. The  team will also develop and install an electronic system to visualize the sound level inside the  Dome.

The proposal is for an installation inside of the CAUS Dome, which will utilize cable-suspended  acoustic fabric panels which are mechanically fastened to the interior steel structure. The student designed parametric acoustic panels form will be broken into smaller panels using computer  script for easier installation. Computer script, generated through Grasshopper and Python, will  adapt each panel size to maximize the usage of fabric material, to minimize waste based on  different shapes and sizes. Students will use digital fabrication and lasercutting to assemble the  sound dampening material to make the panels which will be connected to form a parametric  structure. The visualization system will adopt a series of circuit boards and sensors that receive  sound data, which will be visualized through light signals based on the amplitude and pitch of  individual sound waves.

The acoustic sculpture will dwell in the Dome structure located west of Cowgill hall, functioning as a noise-damping device. The sculpture will consist of soft material to reduce sound bounces back when one speaks, tensile members, and mechanical fasteners to physically attach the sculpture to the dome structure. The form of the sculpture will be designed by the students of Wang’s studio and it will go through a series of acoustic simulations before installation. Underneath the sculpture is the sound-visualization systems. Each of the sound-visualization devices will be individually powered and LEDs will light up with different intensity based on the amount of sound it receives. The shells of the sound-visualization devices will be 3D printed and pre-fabbed before installation. The goal of the sculpture is to transform the inherited nature of the dome which it suffers from echoing when one speaks within its parameters into space where one can be easily heard when speaking.