Sound Mirrors


post this oneSutter Fort Park, Sacramento, Californiaup close

Prior to World War II and the invention of radar, acoustic mirrors were built as early warning devices around the coasts of Great Britain, with the aim of detecting airborne invasions. These mirrors are large concrete hemispherical domes that reflect sound to the center foci. Microphones placed at foci the  of the reflectors enabled a listener to detect the sound of aircrafts several kilometers out in the English Channel. My idea takes this primitive device and relocates it within modern contexts. Sound mirrors or sound theatres can be used at a more urban or residential scale as installations for people to sit and interact within. The premise is to sit within the concrete dome, which could be oriented in any direction, and that sounds of the surroundings become amplified as they are reflected and echoed within the dome.

 This could be used within the context of a rural residence to sit and reflect upon nature, as the sounds of nature will become amplified. Close to the beach the sound of waves breaking could be heard clearly 200 meters away, along with the singing of sea-birds. Sitting in a sound mirror nested below a forest of trees will allow the observer to hear the swaying of the branches in the wind in a way he may have never heard.

 It could also be used facing a busy pedestrian street which, while walking past it, would distort and reflect the sounds of the city in a unique way, if only for a moment. People may walk by recognizing a change in their perception of sound without necessarily knowing why or what changed it. I like the idea of sound mirrors being placed sporadically throughout an urban pedestrian streetscape, because as people walk by, they will inadvertently become aware of their sense of hearing as the monotonous sounds of everyday life (which are often blocked out) change in a small pocket of space. It could heighten their senses and, as they pass, possibly cause them to discover what they may have been ignoring.


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