Soundscape: Flexible Wood Wants to Become Architecture



Architecture is the thoughtful making of spaces. The building of architecture relies deeply on the materials to hand and chosen by the architect.

However, most architects rely on the materials they know and thus, they often end up with the same design outcomes.

Boring, right?

Louis Kahn said “Even a brick wants to be something.” Even a common, ordinary brick wants to be something more than it is: a brick wants to be something better than it is.

Here’s a trick:

We’ve already learned new materials can bring new ways of designing architecture.

What if we have a sort of flexible wood?

What if this flexible wood wants to become architecture?

In this post, you’ll learn about an acoustic environment, so-called “Soundscape“.

We’ll be covering:

•  Architectural Experience
•  Sensory Experience
•  Like Alvar Aalto
•  New Acoustic Treatment
•  Soundscape

Now let’s get started!


Architectural Experience




“What is missing from our dwellings today are the potential transactions between body, imagination, and environment…To at least some extent every place can be remembered, partly because it is unique, but partly because it has affected our bodies and generated enough associations to hold it in our personal worlds.”
– Kent Bloomer and Charles Moore (1977)


In today’s technological and consumer culture, the interaction between body, imagination and environment has been neglected over the years or even downplayed. The visual senses have never been more highly privileged, especially with digital media dominantly using visual input. The sense of sight has been upgraded to be more important than our other senses, causing a feeling of detachment and alienation in our emotions. The more we depend on vision to experience the world, the less acute our other senses become.


Contemporary space

Our built environment is becoming less formal and less static, it is more adaptable and fluid as it supports the many different tasks, functions, and interactions that keep changing with advancing technology. So rather than consisting of strictly functional separated rooms and intermediate areas, contemporary space is the seamless transition of these spaces. Thus, spatial concepts become much more fluid and dynamic. The lives of current and future generations are not and will not be static, but heavily affected through time. Rooms and their functionality have to remain flexible and adaptive in order to meet these new living conditions. The qualities of a room would be defined by its new aesthetics as fluidity as its functional aspects.


Fluid space

The paneling covers the existing building structure like a second skin. Regardless of underlying spatial arrangement, the freeform elements visually combine to form one functional unit. The transition from wall to ceiling is flowing and it makes the actual contours of the room merge into the background. Furthermore, acoustic elements are integrated without impacting on the appearance of the room.


Visual space

The visual sense effected in a room’s proportions can be significantly modified by applying natural fibrous materials to a wall. The flow of the fiber in the material (and, in turn, the room) will be perceived differently according to the direction of the material’s “grain” (fiber) and texture. For example, a room with a linear horizontal pattern appears longer than a room with vertical elements. A room with a small panel format appears larger than a one of large panel formats.


Sensory Experience




“We see the depth, the smoothness, the softness, the hardness of objects; Cezanne even claimed that we see their odor. If the painter is to express the world, the arrangement of his colors must carry with it this indivisible whole, or else his picture will only hint at things and will not give them in the imperious unity, the presence, the unsurpassable plenitude which is for us the definition of the real.”
– Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945)


Vision reveals what the touch already knows. We could think of the sense of touch as the unconscious of vision. “Through vision we touch the sun and the stars.” So Merleau-Ponty describes his idea of the senses. Our eyes stroke distant surfaces, contours and edges, and unconscious tactile sensation determines the agreeableness or unpleasantness of the experience. The distant and the near are experienced with the same intensity, and they merge into one as multi-sensory experience.


Sensory space

Every room brings a sense of comfort or discomfort which is directly and individually perceived through our senses: through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and their interaction. The perception of space is determined by the social and cultural background. The visual and acoustical sense of space is highly regarded. A well designed architectural space creates tangible and emotional connections.



Wood is often proposed as a material that promotes perfect acoustics. It was believed to be responsible for “singing tone”. Although wood has no magical acoustical powers, it is often used in the design of rooms for music. Perhaps because its visual association with violin family gives it impacts heavily on a musician’s creativity. The warm color of wood brings together a visual and acoustic intimacy.


Like Alvar Aalto




“The irrational curves of the ceiling glide through space like the serpentine lines of a Miro painting…Here, therefore, the scientific reasoning and artistic imagination have merged to free architecture from that rigidity which is today an ever present menace.”
– Sigfried Giedion (1941)


Do you like the work of Vyborg Library by Aalto, with its undulating ceiling and integrated sound structure as a part of the overall architecture? That was done nearly 100 years ago, but we are still rarely able to create the undulating ceiling in our built environment. Why? It was customized product, and labor intensive work employing specialized builders: the original ceiling was built on site by possibly boat-builders.


Curved wood ceiling

In this ceiling, Aalto created a freeform element that connects the floors, walls and ceilings like a mysterious Miro’s painting. The undulating wooden ceiling of the Viipuri Library is definitely one of the most exciting elements of architectural history. Giedion considered Aalto’s ceiling of great importance. Both its material and organic form not only bring the outside surroundings inside, but it also blends visually and emotionally an interior space with nature.


Imaginary space

The relationship between inside and outside of the Vyorg Library, looking inward and outward, results from the degree of openness to nature. It blends interior space and the surroundings in nature with visual and emotional connection. Because of the continuation of materials and surfaces, the boundary between interior space and nature gets merged into landscape. The Aalto’s ceiling makes us feel free to grow our imagination.


New Acoustic Treatment




“Layering and separation: in these systematic changes there is change in the bulk properties: how light penetrates; what occurs on loading. Each form responds in some degree to another: hard things become soft things…Bundled twigs become energy, making together a huge flame.”
– Yuichiro Kojiro (1963)


Here, we introduce a new flexible wood surface. What we come up with are scientifically tested, flexible wooden surfaces, capable of being used for high-quality acoustics. As acoustic materials, they are easily balanced for a wide range of frequencies subverting acoustic specialists. It is nothing like you’ve experienced on acoustic treatment before:

•  High-quality acoustics
•  Wooden surfaces
•  Scientifically tested
•  NRC rating of 0.80
•  Reduce flutter echo
•  Space-saving design


Flexible acoustic panels

The basic elements of this material is that it is acoustically resonant composite paneling with hard reflecting plywood surface. It is a laminated sandwich of plywood and acoustic foam, machine-slit alternately in plan and section. Each incision not only transforms the stiff panel into a flexible one, but it also create openings for sound to traveling through and interact with the acoustic foam. It thus becomes a flexible wood and acoustic panel at the same time.


Hybrid acoustic panels

The sandwich panel resonates at two frequencies: it creates a sound absorbing effect when there is an interaction between sound traveling through the openings of plywood and acoustic foam. On the other hand, when the incoming sound reflect the curved, harder plywood surface, it creates sound diffusion effects. This allows a single flexible panel to go someway towards creating an appropriate balance of sound absorption and sound diffusion at the same time.






“You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, ‘I like an arch.’ And you say to brick, ‘Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.’ And then you say: ‘What do you think of that, brick?’ Brick says: ‘I like an arch.”
– Louis Kahn (1969)


Similarly, you say to a flexible wood, ‘What do you want, flexible wood?’ And flexible wood says to you, ‘I like a wall and acoustics‘: it wants to become architecture.


Sound landscape

Is it just a wall? Is it acoustics? The idea of a “Soundscape” is part of architecture and as well an acoustic environment where we can visually perceive through interaction by our senses, a unity of visual and acoustic space. It is functional and beautiful at the same time. Here are some great advantages:

•  Freeform element combining wall and ceiling as sound structures.
•  Covering existing building structure like a second skin.
•  Seamless, fluid surfaces from wall to ceiling with no transitions.
•  Multi-sensory experience for visual and acoustic intimacy.


OK; it’s your turn!

If you’ve had enough inspiration about flexible wood, you know what to do: doodling, designing, daydreaming and, of course, “soundscaping”.

Well good news – you can easily create freeform element combining wall and ceiling as sound structures.

Would you like to find out how flexible wood surface works, ask more about WAVY® Acoustic. Call now.