Composing Atmospheres: The Transposition of Music to Architecture

Ki Hyun Sung

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This thesis examines the atmospheric nature of the two disciplines, music and architecture. Atmosphere in the world of arts is used to describe how the created piece can influence the mood and emotion of the person in its presence. One of the key areas of investigation in this thesis is influenced by Pallasmaa’s perception of music as an atmospheric space and a synesthetic bodily experience. This thesis will delve into how music influences moods and emotions, and how it becomes an atmospheric space through visual representations.

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Architectural experience also has its similarities as Pallasmaa writes, "Every space, place and situation is tuned in a specific way, and it projects atmospheres that promote distinct moods and feelings."1 We engage with the architecture and atmosphere with all our human senses and empathise with the composed space. However, Pallasmaa criticises that we cannot empathise with the present, contemporary architecture which is emotionless and lifeless, and has consequently lost the ability to embrace human life. While modern architecture is losing the ability to affect moods and emotions, music is still able to affect our state of moods and feelings through our emotional sensitivity.

1. Juhani Pallasmaa, "Empathetic and Embodied Imagination: Intuiting Experience and Life in Architecture," in Architecture and Empathy: A Tapio Wirkkala-Rut Bryk Design Reader, ed. Philip Tidwell (Espoo, Finland: Tapio Wirkkala-Rut Bryk Foundation, 2015), 7.

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This thesis will therefore investigate how music’s ability to stimulate different emotions can be transposed into a language of architectural atmosphere. Through this investigation, the aim of the thesis will be to use music as a medium to drive the emotional setting of space and develop a methodology to bridge the two disciplines. It will particularly focus on transposing music into a synesthetic architectural experience and setting up atmospheres that complement the sensations received from music.

The validity of the method will be examined through applying this to a hypothetical architectural project, 'The School of Music for the Deaf'. The school is a pavilion that will allow children to experience the atmosphere in music through their senses, and hear with the body.

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