An Acoustic Lyrical Mechanism – Basmah Kaki

Today’s project is this year’s RIBA Bronze Medal winner.  Designed by Basmah Kaki, the acousitc lyrical mechanism aims to save quarry workers from noise pollution.  Although it sounds pretty fancy and involved, the project uses basic design moves to create a space away from the constant noise.  It’s a great project, but we’d love to see if there could be a way to create a space that actively works with sound energy, to reduce echos, reverberations and escaping noise.  Check it out.

STUDENT: Basmah Kaki
SCHOOL: The AA
YEAR: 2011


This project speculates on sound energy and ambient space within the extreme setting of an active granite quarry. Located on the outskirts of the high-tech city Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, the mine employees a migrating cast – among them women and children – whose hearing is progressively damaged by the noise pollution endemic to their working conditions. An Acoustic Lyrical Mechanism creates a long-term strategy where sound and religious spaces offer relief, treatment and hope for the community of workers.
Inspired by local religious traditions, the design is built around an existing sacred temple located within a thin, excavated area of the quarry. Largely placed inside the rock face, to protect against the mine’s constant hammering sounds and blast vibrations, this temple offers an entry point that then channels into a retreat space situated 30m above the quarry’s floor, high enough to escape the destructive noises and yet embedded enough to listen to the sounds generated by a layered adaptive skin mechanism attached to the cliff rock. This skin responds to a range of complex, and often competing, physical and environmental conditions.

The design was structured, firstly, around several prototypes, built to investigate Aeolian wind-belt harp concepts, and the conversion of kinetic energy into electrical and sound energy. Secondly, topographic models helped to analyse wind and natural updraft on steep surfaces and control the air/sound flow within the building. Following a series of environmental studies, it was decided to position wind catchers in order to amplify the prevailing wind, redirecting the updraft to play the building’s instrumental spaces.
Operating as a sensorial extension of the existing temple, the building engages its users in educational programmes via lyrical mechanisms, tuning tools and sonic workshops. Crafted with the detail typically afforded to the manufacture of musical instruments, its internal spaces sit in contrast to its rough external setting. Like an Aeolian harp, the building is played by the wind, acoustically transforming the abrasive sounds of quarrying.
Part documentary, part speculation, the project reflects on sites and people lost in the rush of technological progress, but at the same time celebrating the cultivation of hope through acoustic lyrical mechanisms.

All text and images via RIBA

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