Updates & Brief

My apology for the blog posts and yesterday’s tutorial. I’ve just arrived from hometown, feeling a bit weary. And this is going to be a bit of a long post, to lay out the technicalities behind it.


During the process of producing portfolio and tech, all this while, I kinda didn’t have much clue where this is going. Since the idea seems like pretty much scattered all over the place. Like my mind!

I thought deeply about my initial idea and the mega radio frequency we talked before holiday. Moreover, putting additional massive power source on the brooklyn bridge or around the area to produce visual soundwave through (very long and thick) strings/cables is just too dangerous.

The earlier discussions seems like missing an important point. It took me a while to figure out what it is  and at the same time, trying to simplify the concept. I seem to lose the sight of the keyword, Sound and been going back and forth on the same wheel of the same idea, Communication. It occurred to me that, sound can be made in signal or music, as a way to communicate or to transmit data/message.(I’m so blur!)


I searched on different angle and came across keywords such as sound archive, sound blocker/converter, sound stopper and lastly, sound generate electricity. And this, I think the point that I missed. I’ve been wanting to turn this project into something more beneficial and architecturally as oppose to the project scope, Museum. I’ve searched further and yes, sound can be converted into electrical energy but it is not widely used as other energy sources (wind, water, thermal, etc) since it needs larger amount of sound to be converted into a steady and bigger electrical energy output. Though it is still under investigation, the theory is there, and this could exactly be the kind of energy needed in the future with all the updating technology, bigger population, bigger usage, wider use of technology (a 5 year old kid already has an iphone) and thus, creating more sounds, more noises.

I’ve looked into the level of sound decibels that are produced from the sound of crossing vehicles on the bridge and around the DUMBO area (pedestrians, cyclists, ferries under the bridge, helicopter hovering around, constructions, etc) and it goes as high as 85.6 decibels and hit maximum at 90.5 decibels. Normal conversation reaches 50-65 decibels. According to research,  “if a sound reaches 85 dB or stronger, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The amount of time you listen to a sound affects how much damage it will cause”



Noise coming from the bridge often related to the bridge joint noise that reach up to 105 decibels.


Coming to the idea of sound generate electricity, I am hoping to direct my museum brief towards that idea/theory. The average level of noise decibels needed to be converted to electrical energy output is +30 decibels and plus, with the help of speaker and amplifier, the sound vibration can generate electricity starting at 4v. (sorry this sounds so engineering )

Here’s an example of ongoing studies on the topic. This illustration explains about generating electricity from airport noise (plane during take off)

generate electricity from airport

2nd example:

The Solar Organ. The idea behind it is what interests me. It says, “A transition from a world powered by fossil fuels to a world powered by renewable resources is built on two pillars, technology and culture. The technology must exist to harness the energy that is present in our environment, and culture must support the changes that our planet requires.  Powered only by the sun, using a technology known as thermoacoustics, the Solar Organ will produce both sound and electricity. Viewers will have a chance to walk within the organ’s structure, absorbed by the soft ethereal tones of this musical instrument, knowing that as it produces sound it is also feeding energy back into the grid. The goal of the installation is to demonstrate the energy present in the environment around us through an instrument that produces both beautiful music and electrical energy.” Of course, this one uses the sun. But the theory is quite similar.



solar organ1

solar organ



3rd example:

http://www.the-facility.co.uk/ (under Innovation) “London-based Facility: Innovate, an architectural research firm investigating ways to convert environmental vibrations into electricity.” “Though still in the research phase, such technology could mean a new era in energy generation and conservation. “Harvesting acoustic noise is more about mechanical vibrations than sound itself,” says Cohen-Tanugi. “The idea is definitely there, and it’s quite promising.”—Sarah Jensen


THE BRIEF (what I have in mind so far) :

Noise is more than just disturbance. It is a symphony of individual sounds composed in a natural manner, creating an illusion of chaos. That is what makes New York, New York.

So in this project, the whole idea is to harness what noise is, and harvest its vibrations as energy. Poetically, the intention is to create a system where the life (function) of the museum is reliant on the hustle and bustle of the people of New York. To lose this noise will be the death of the museum.

Again, noise is more than interference, which still means it is. People will hardly appreciate and understand what lies beyond this noise which makes it a nuisance. Therefore the museum works as a separator of these sounds and re-channeling them into sound device for the users to experience the sound wave visually. At the same time, the museum works as sound archive. Collecting the city noise and bridge as the main character, and re-play and showcase them in different manner. Settling the museum with the Brooklyn Bridge not just restoring the history but also the city’s culture.

If there’s any catastrophe or disaster ever happen to New York city, the greater the sound vibration is, thus more energy (speculatively). But on the other hand, the more people die, the museum stops functioning. The museum is the heart of the city.


Things to ponder to relate everything back as one brief.

  1. To play the visual sound wave or to make the museum as communicator between two lands (initial idea from sound device), needs massive energy on both ends of the bridge. It is quite irrelevant since the technology provides wireless and other more convenient ways of communicating and also, the area of brooklyn bridge does not look appropriate to be put extra power lines there. Not to mention dangerous. Hence, the idea of producing one. Using the sound or very loud noise from the bridge to be converted into electrical output. (with the help of speaker and amplifier and added gadgets and device inside the museum)
  2. In the initial idea, cables of the bridge as communicator/data transmitter and to be put as the main thing in the museum seems irrelevant for its thickness and length.
  3. The structure study in Tech/Exploration Study strengthen the means to construct additional structure to the bridge or with the bridge, in order to create this museum.
  4. There are some unused spaces on the bridge (such as, the railway track without train) that can be converted into additional esplanade, etc. At one of the anchorage, there is an empty bunker that is said to be a war bunker, this can be used as the storage for electrical utilities or such.
  5. The two cables used on the bridge is strong enough to sustain structures. Hence, the previous question of should the brooklyn bridge be demolished or not, the answer is no. The bridge is the museum.


Here’s an example of (made up) schedule of when to record the sound to be converted and channeled to the museum.


So, what I’m thinking of now is, is this seems like a trap for me to be in? in terms of pursuing this as museum design/brief. Or hopes are too high to be reached? the scope is too wide? Or this seems more irrelevant compare to previous ideas? :/ I know this is quite a sudden change. The scope of sound itself is broad.



(I am re-modelling the portfolio a bit, re drawing some drawings and arrangements. Under progress. Hopefully able to finish 80% of it for tuesday)

One thought on “Updates & Brief

  1. HI Salihah, Interesting post – Im glad that the time over the break has brought clarity to your project and made you remember that sound is just the output and communication is the main theme of the project. The research about sound being translated into energy is fascinating -it could be a terrific thing to investigate and experiment with through your technology submission, and its probably more useful and doable as a project compared to the huge data transmitter version of the project. I think all the strands of the project you have identified are clear but you still need to find a way to bring them together into an architectural proposal. Something can be useful while also being exhibited in a museum – challenging the traditional museum by calling the Brooklyn Bridge a museum is great but how do you expose the different sounds that the bridge hears? the amount of energy it could be channelled into? What would the bridge need this energy for? Or how would this energy become a new renewable power source for Brooklyn vs. Manhattan? Can people capture individual sounds or a New York symphony of sounds that they can take away with them as a drawing or recording? Just some things to think about as you move forward with the project.
    While its important to show all the work to date on Tuesday, perhaps for the next day focus on this initial idea for a proposal so you can get a lot out of the discussion. Now that you are back in London we expect you to be more regular in posting on the blog and using tutorials to get as much feedback as possible. Looking forward to seeing all the new work you have done at the presentation.

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