The breath of sound


Rony Shapira

Exhibit Opening

Exhibit Opening.

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The Skirt Chronicles

The Skirt Chronicles.

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Final presentation posters



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A breathing space – raising consciousness to the urban pulse



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The vision of the project

One may hypothesize that movement, a timely phenomenon, cannot be measured in exact physical terms as humans are incapable of holding on to movement. If it cannot be held on to, then how may one understand motion. One possible idea is the conception of movement through its impact, through its effect or “traces”.

The new space created at the Namir Bridge site is composed of physical and virtual components which would raise awareness to the effects of urbanism on an environment. The space created is a conceptual “breathing” space, in which one would “breathe” the environment present at the site.

The new space is composed of two passages which take the city dwellers through the environment under the bridge, a rather mellow atmosphere where the predominant sounds are those of the river, and of people. The two passages converge in a central space which is partly exposed to the environment above the bridge: the busy street characterized by continuous car traffic. This central space does not directly overlook the street but is instead open to its sounds and light conditions. The awareness of urbanism created at the site is achieved through the binary relationship between movement and traces.

The design process was inspired by the hypothesis that sound describes movement and that in order to visually describe a sound, one must describe its movements.

When conceived of as a type of movement, laughter may be analyzed through the breaths taken in between each laughing burst. The sound of laughter was therefore chosen as a case study following the hypothesis that the breaths can be considered traces of the laughter.  

Sound is both a physical and virtual phenomenon in that most of the qualities attributed to it are in fact emotional or mental qualities. In order to translate the virtual aspects of sound into a physical expression, one may use the patterns apparent in the sound. In the case of laughter and breathing the inherent dynamic qualities are the back and forth movements of expansion and contraction, of explosion and recession. Defining a phenomenon by its patterns relates to an idea raised by Tyler Volk in his book “Metapatterns, Across Space Time and Mind,”1. 

A physical experiment was conducted to simulate the patterns identified in the sound. The experiment created a new virtual world of possibilities as no movement was exactly alike the one before. The movements simulated in the experiment disappeared after they occurred, yet their traces or “imprints” remained throughout the sequence. The traces became the background for the movements that followed. Such an idea was discussed by Greg Lynn in his book “Animate Form”2. Lynn proposed that when one looks at a landscape one in fact sees a form that contains in it all the physical changes that the form has undergone as a result of all the forces that have acted on the form, as well as everything that preceded that specific form. In that sense, the movements can be thought of as a landscape that is experienced through its traces which have accumulated over time.

A similar phenomenon can be seen at the Namir Bridge site. This site, a crossroads of car traffic, people, and a river is continuously bustling with activity, which is described in the fusion of sounds. The movement of cars on top of the bridge can be sensed under the bridge through their sound, as well as through shadows created in gaps in the bridge each time a car passes by. The shadows that penetrate the bridge are traces of the cars’ movement.

This idea was formed into an animation to express the binary relationship between the virtual movement and its physical traces at the site. Using a time-based digital tool allowed the isolation and specific analysis of the dynamic movement which yielded the static traces.

The pattern identified in the sound then became the metapattern of the project: a virtual, timely phenomenon exists in a realm that evades humans – it cannot be quantified specifically or held on to. It is through the phenomenon’s physical imprints that one may experience its behavior.

Digital tools were used to translate the conceptual ideas, expressed in diagrams, to a physical space. By inputting data such as real units, the human scale, and relation to the given site, the digital media allowed to infer how the new space will react and interact with given conditions. The form was put through the filter of human usage by drawing out possible circulation routes to be used in the space. This design process was inspired by what Greg Lynn suggested in his idea of form evolution. The form yielded from the case study contained in it the functions that it will serve and its use by people:

“…the context for design becomes an active abstract space that directs form within a current of forces that can be stored as information in the shape of the form.”3

Digital tools were then used to implement another stage of form evolution: volume was given to the conceptual diagram, forming a three dimensional space from the two dimensional diagram.

In her book “Architecture from the Outside”4 Elizabeth Grosz wrote that virtuality takes place in one’s thoughts, when one imagines or thinks of something that could be. The opening in the central space where the two passages meet allows in the flow of light, shadows, sound, and air from the urban world above the bridge, a world that is mostly hidden to the inhabitant of the space. By allowing the interference of urban traces into the central space, one may imagine a dynamic space that is constantly changing and moving. Although physically the user is still relatively isolated from the bustle of the city, his thoughts carry him to an urban dimension. The interaction between the users and the traces of urban movement cannot be predicted. Thereby virtuality is created.

A similar idea was discussed by Ali Rahim:
“…transition from the virtual to the actual always involves the emergence of something previously unanticipated.”5

As Volk writes:
“Choosing contemplation and the individual as the entities, then action and community are their respective environments,”6 so the new space is both a physical and virtual passage between personal life in the city and the collective of the urban environment.

1 Volk, Tyler. Metapatterns, Across Space Time and Mind, “Binaries”, March 1997. p. 79

2 Lynn, Greg. Animate Form, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1999.

3 Lynn, Greg. Animate Form, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1999. p. 11

4 Grosz, Elizabeth A. Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001.

5 Rahim, Ali. Catalytic Formations, “Virtual and Actual” Taylor and Francis Group, Dec.22 2005. p.077

6 Volk, Tyler. Metapatterns, Across Space Time and Mind, “Binaries”, March 1997. p. 79

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Diagrams developing the program

Sections that show the relation between the site and the new space:


Areas where the virtual appears in the space (top view):


Human movement and interaction in and around the space (top view):


The “breathing” space was inspired by studying how blood is pumped in and out of the heart, allowing us to breathe. As a result of this investigation I decided to consider two passageways that would “breathe” movement in and out of the space.


The red lines represent the movement of people that is pumped in and out of the passage space:


When thinking about how the space would be an actual “breathing” space I decided to create openings in various increments in the passages. These openings would bring in light (represented in yellow) and air (represented in blue) from the outside environment. The openings would also create a rhythm in the space: 


The relation between the structure and the human scale:

1.    2.

1. In the passages  2. In the larger open space

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Concept, Program

Concept: Awareness of the virtual (the passing, disappearing) through the real (the physical, the evident).

I would like to create a social space in which I would raise awareness to the effects of urbanism (of cars, traffic, noise) on an environment. The space created would be directly effected by its urban surroundings.


-          One part “protected”, one part exposed to the street. Exposed to light and noise, the noise becomes part of the environment in the space.

-          Cause and effect: the environment in the space would be the effect of the urban environment.

-          Dragging, bursting: a continuous space that “drags”, somewhat isolated from the outside.

A central space where the “burst” occurs. This space is open to the street and overlooks it. It shows bursts of light and noise. It shows a burst of activity on the outside and the open inside space allows for a burst of activity on the inside.

-          Breathing: the open space shows the urban “breathing”, the sounds define the rhythm of breathing.

A “breathing” space

-          Appearance and disappearance: the appearance of space vs. the disappearance of space.

Dark space/ passageway. The appearance of light leads to the “appearance” of space.

Continuous openings of light at different intervals allow the space to “appear” and create a rhythm that suggests a breathing of the space

- In order to create a homogeneous structure, it would be build out of a continuous surface that in the dark passageway section would be more dense and in the open space would be more open

- Geometry, shape, appearance: The space acts as a “cover” for people. It is enclosed, and later opens to reveal new ideas.

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Writing about my project and research

The sound of my brother laughing intrigued me because for such a seemingly familiar sound, it had secret connotations in it.

The breathing between each burst of laughter was what interested me the most because to me it had hidden in it the most layers of meaning. The breathing had emotional, structural and dynamic connotations. When I listened to the sound it reminded me of expansion and contraction, of bursting and dragging. I chose to analyze the recurring movement described in the sound.

I simulated my brother’s body movements as he was laughing by tracing the back and forth motion with a flashlight and making a video. I divided the video into frames which displayed every change that occurred in the motion.

The physical experiment I did with the flashlight created a virtual world of possibilities because no movement was exactly alike the one before. The movements appeared and then passed. Although the movement itself disappeared after it happened, traces or “imprints” remained throughout the sequence.

The traces are the remainder of what happened. Through them I could see the effects of the motion which passed as time passed; the effects of something that I couldn’t physically hold on to.

In order to discover the layers and depth of the movement, I traced the frames and made them into a pattern and then layered the patterns to analyze how the movement changed over a span of time.

I looked for a similar phenomenon at the Namir Bridge, and chose to focus on a gap that exists in the bridge. What interested me about this site is that the movement of the cars created shadows which penetrated the gap and changed the lighting under the bridge. This phenomenon reminded me of the expanding and contracting motion of the breathing in my sound. The shadows that penetrated the space represented the traces of the cars passing by.

After analyzing the movements of the shadows by tracing the patterns they created, I created an animation of this phenomenon in order to express how it occurred over time. I focused on the patterns of the shadows as static traces of a motion that is dynamic, occurs over time, and cannot be grasped. The traces created a new environment; a new space in the bridge that relates to an occurrence that already happened, yet creates something new.

Terms to consider:


sound> the way we perceive sound is virtual, mental

motion> motion creates sound, sound describes motion

time> holds infinite possibilities, cannot be held on to physically, cannot be physically quantified

Motion occurs along a span of time. As time cannot be held on to, so motion cannot be grasped.

> an occurrence that can be conceived of mentally. An occurrence that disappears and cannot be held on to, cannot be grasped exactly

Physical: Traces, imprints, footprints, effects

>resulting from something, caused by something                        >static, can be perceived physically, not just mentally   >remaining, part of the landscape

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The surfaces created in the animation represent various motions that pass through the site. What I wanted to express through the animation are the ideas of apparent vs. transparent, dynamic and fleeting vs. static, and the idea of physically grasping something that is as virtual as time.

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Re-analyzing space



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