Thursday, 11 April 2013

Can Music Make Up Architecture?

© Alexandros Christopoulos featured above 

A great setting, a cosy decor and amazing music could roughly be the formula for the perfect hangout. The interesting part is that even with an average setting and a so-so decor, you can still have a great hangout when the music is special. Music has the power to shape the perception of space. It loosens you; it makes you vibrate with everyone in the room. You open up, and you connect… 

Now, good or bad news for architecture? 

It depends on your views. If you are an optimist, this is wonderful news. It means that you have a tool that you can use to enhance the architectural experience. If music can make a regular space look great, in combination with good architecture, the experience could be sublime. The hospitality industry knows a lot about this.  

What about with less fortunate surroundings? Could music be used to offset architectural shortages? It certainly could since sound can shape matter ( see how ).

With this in mind, music could be the ultimate tool for architects and planners. It could be used where the lack of good architecture - or architecture at all - hinders users from having a pleasant experience, let alone a sublime one. I am thinking of refugee camps, places destroyed by natural disasters or any place where architecture should be but isn't, adding to the stress and pain that are already there. The ultramarathoner Scott Jurek has an interesting take on music and pain. In his book Eat & Run he writes  "Researchers speculate that music suppresses pain by, basically, focusing the brain on something else - tunes. In one study, researchers found that listening to music created the same pain-easing results of taking a tablet of extra-strength Tylenol".  If music can ease physical pain, it can certainly do so with soul pain.

What would it take to create a perfect hangout in a refugee camp? Not much really especially since the preferred look of the perfect hangout is a vernacular one, or what is to say, a simple decor done with locally sourced materials. Add a solar or pedal powered sound equipment, a great compilation and a bit of colour - gracefully combined of course - and you'd be pretty much there.

Back to the perfect hangout, there are certainly many of them. However, I only know a few. Island in Athens is one of them. It is a small whitewashed club with a big terrace overlooking the sea. Simple and tasteful decor, and wonderful music. Check their yearly summer compilations.
Photo © Island, Athens
Nammos in Psarou Beach in Mykonos is a delicious bar and full achiever of our definition of the sublime. It is simply done, yet you perceive it as über-sophisticated. Its music perhaps?
Photo © Nammos Mykonos
Blue Marlin in Cala Jondal Ibiza. What an institution! A bar in an isolated beach with great live sessions. A feel-good place no matter how crowded it is.
Photo © Blue Marlin in Cala Jondal Ibiza
The guys in charge of the magic...
Photo © Blue Marlin in Cala Jondal Ibiza

... which can be found everywhere! The DR Congo, for instance, has great musicians. Below Oliverman in Kinshasa.
Photo © SKR for RNW
So really, if music works wonders in Mykonos and Ibiza, could it not work the same wonders where wonders are needed? Good news is that it probably could. It would be great to see the image below more often. It was taken at the opening of the City of Joy in Bukavo, Eastern Congo. A great initiative by Eve Ensler.
Photo © Paula Allen

Music can make up for average architecture or for the lack of it. However, if you are an architect, remember that this is not license not to say it nicely.

Wonderful vernacular by TYIN Architects
Photo © Pasi Aalto. Training Centre in Indonesia
Or the real thing. Just add the music and lean back...
Photo © Patrick Bigabo


Alexandros Christopoulos / Greece. Great DJ
Scott Jurek / Ultramarathoner
City of Joy / DR Congo
TYIN tegnestue Architects / Norway

Blue Marlin / Ibiza
Island Club / Athens
Nammos / Mykonos