What an office can look like with the help of “sound ambience”

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I’m on the 20th floor of an office building on Wall Street. One of the offices inside is equipped with ten speakers, some placed on plinths, others mounted on the ceiling. Aric Marshall of audio software company Spatial leads a demonstration of a new soundscape designed for the workplace. Holding his phone, he says “Just listen” and touches the screen. I’m preparing to hear the soundscape come out through the speakers, but the opposite is true. The sound that I hadn’t processed died away, plunging the room into a cold, uncomfortable, almost metallic silence. Without my realizing it, a soundscape had played from the start – in this case a muffled, almost imperceptible crackle of rain falling on the roof of a wooden cabin – coating the concrete office in some sort. of soft and sound balm.

For a very long time, architecture was designed for the eye, leaving the other senses aside. In recent years, however, architects and designers have started to think about how certain spaces might sound, smell, or even feel to touch. Today our senses are stimulated, so much so that signature scents and bespoke soundscape are now part of the business and marketing strategies of a growing number of companies, from Abercrombie & Fitch to Mastercard.

[Image: Made Music Studio/Spatial]

This week I experienced what an office could look like if someone intentionally designed it that way. Here, that someone is actually two companies: sonic-branded studio Made Music Studio and Spatial, an immersive audio software platform. As businesses continue their quest to attract tenants into the office, the two are betting that bespoke soundscapes can provide a resounding edge.

Made Music Studio has been shaping the way places sound for 20 years, most recently in downtown Dallas, where they built a 2.4-acre public / private space surrounding AT&T World Headquarters with 130 speakers. playing soundtracks that match the flow of the day (think background music, water noises, chimes and chirps of local birds). Meanwhile, Spatial uses an audio simulation platform to create immersive experiences with dynamic soundscapes that appear enveloping and fluid, instead of coming from a static speaker.

Now the two studios have come together to design a series of soundscapes – composed by Made Music Studio using Spatial’s advanced software – that can work in corporate headquarters, retail environments, entertainment venues, museums and elsewhere.

The first is called the “welcoming atmosphere”. It’s measured and slow-paced, and it was designed for office lobbies (hotel lobbies and other arrival spaces would work as well.) The second is an “ambiance of concentration” and it is punctuated by a slow heartbeat that gets your attention. This could be used near workstations and other quieter spaces where targeted productivity is the goal. The third is nicknamed “energizing atmosphere”. Its upbeat tone is aimed at high-energy common spaces and high traffic areas like hallways, transportation hubs or even busy retail stores that need to disperse people. (None of these include the crackle of the rain playing at the start.)

[Image: Made Music Studio/Spatial]

“Sound has a very profound ability to impact the experience,” says Marshall, product manager at Spatial. It can spark emotions, bring back memories, and shape how people feel in a certain place. “If the sound is so good, which we all think it is, why isn’t it everywhere?” “

A world with constant sound might not resonate with everyone – I was raised with music, but even I need silence to reset myself. The point of a sound environment, however, is that you are not supposed to actively listen to it. Unlike a white noise machine or song played through a speaker, these sound compositions are designed to run in the background and quietly enhance your experience. “Masking [noise] is useful, but what we’re trying to do is influence behavior and feelings, ”says Ben Arons, vice president and director of music technology at Made Music Studio. “It’s part of the space, like the air conditioning. It hits your subconscious and it doesn’t make you think seriously. “

In 2018, Made Music Studio conducted a sound study in a real office environment with around 180 participants who spent half an hour in work modules equipped with stereo speakers on the headrests. Using biometric sensors built into the chairs and a set of quizzes, they found that “well-designed music and sound” is 16% more calming than a typical office ambience.

Over the past year, owners and developers have spent resources vying for tenants with unexpected twists and extravagant amenities. “An important aspect of this is that you want these environments to be inviting,” says Calin Pacurariu, co-founder and CEO of Spatial.

Earlier this year, Spatial announced a series of collaborations with healthcare providers such as Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Santa Clarita, Calif. And Wellstar in Atlanta, to design environments for immersive sound experiences to reduce stress for patients and healthcare workers. In the corporate world, Pacurariu says the company is now working with top tech companies whose names he cannot release. “They are fundamentally rethinking the future of work in this hybrid environment,” says Pacarariu. “And they see [sound] as a competitive advantage.

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