A new life for Be Open’s Arup-designed Sound Portal

The Be Open Sound Portal, designed by Arup, which was launched at last year’s London Design Festival, is to be reused for a series of University of the Arts London projects, aiming to discover ‘how to trigger the elusive sixth sense, or intuition.’

The Sound Portal at Trafalgar Square during London Design Festival
The Sound Portal at Trafalgar Square during London Design Festival

The Sound Portal will now be installed at Chelsea College of Art from April, and Chelsea will work alongside other UAL colleges Central Saint Martins and London College of Communication (LCC) to explore the ‘ambisonic sound space’, which uses multiple channels to create a surround sound effect.

The Sound Portal in use at London Design Festival
The Sound Portal in use at London Design Festival

The project is being run within the framework of portal organiser and think tank Be Open’s educations platform, entitled Inside the Academy, and has been organised by UAL body Enterprise Collective.

Elizabeth Cameron, business relationship manager for the Enterprise Collective, says, ‘It’s an unusual environment. The importance of sound in art and the world is going up the agenda – it’s important to look at the effect it has on you.’

Inside the Sound Portal
Inside the Sound Portal

Each of the three UAL colleges will use the piece for experimentation and produce one or two artworks from the portal, beginning with a lecture and masterclass series from April and culminating in the Sounding Space symposium in June.

Chelsea’s piece, Sound as Measure, will see students primarily from the Interior Spacial Design course use the portal as the ‘focus of a spectacular external light and soundscape designed to counterpoint to the sound world inside the Portal’, according to Be Open.

The Sound Portal
The Sound Portal

Meanwhile St Martin’s students will use the space as a ‘Nomad Lab’, inviting students from across the disciplines to treat the space as a ‘laboratory’ in which they can collaborate to create sound works. Practical sessions will include data-sonification, audio programming, multi-channel sound and physical computing.

The Sound, Place, Memory pieces, led by London College of Communication, will comprise workshops and themed talks with contributors drawn from fields including acoustic archaeology, sensory geography and anthropology, generating three student compositions and two artist compositions.

All three projects will link to arts radio station Resonance FM.

Dr Ken Wilder, Course Director for the MA in Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design, says, ‘Sound is often neglected by architects designing buildings, yet it is such an important aspect of how we bodily experience space. 

‘Arup’s innovative structure allows us to focus on how sound can alter, enhance and disrupt our reading of a space, giving us the possibility to test ideas in a ‘real’ situation. Working across the fine art/design divide, the project allows us to use advanced audio technology in such a way that connects with both poetic and conceptual ideas of defining space through sound.’

The Sound Portal at Trafalgar Square during London Design Festival
The Sound Portal at Trafalgar Square during London Design Festival

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