Sound is composed of tone, range, rhythm and timbre. Architecture, on the other hand, is a multi-layered approach to building a structure from the ground up. Although these two fields seem as if they are entirely separate entities, they share a common denominator: both coexist within the same principle of composition.
Yugo Nakamura, renowned for his work in web, interface and film design, recognizes the similarities between sound and architecture. Using sound as the “building blocks” of art, he constructs an immersive experience for music and film lovers. As the director of audio exhibition Audio Architecture, he breaks down boundaries and translates his unique forms of expression into a densely designed structure that transcends limitations.
Presented by 21_21 Design Sight, Audio Architecture builds an imagery of sound that can also be seen and felt, presenting it across a 25-metre long digital screen filled with undulating abstract shapes. 21_21 Design Sight isn’t just any other “design museum” either – created by two industry heavyweights: architect Tadao Ando and fashion designer Issey Miyake, it is, according to Ando, “not only a museum that shows exhibits, but also a place for researching the potentiality of design as an element that enriches our daily life, a place that fosters the public’s interest in design by arousing in them different sights and perspectives on how we can view the world and its objects”.
At 21_21 Design Sight, there are no million-dollar paintings, nor will you find antique porcelain and high-value collections dotting its pristine walls. Since its establishment in 2007, this design museum has garnered worldwide attention, not just because of its star-studded list of founders, but for its ethos of pushing boundaries. Unbound by the expectations of conventional design or art museums, 21_21 Design Sight boldly explores new possibilities of design-oriented exhibitions – a far cry from merely savouring various works of curated art in a clinical space. The idea of offering an “immersive experience” has since become synonymous with the museum.
“Watch music with your eyes and listen to images with your ears.”
When Audio Architecture opened in Japan for the first time in 2018, audiences were mesmerized by the fresh perspective integrating sound, video and space. For a seamlessly inclusive experience, details such as the sequence and length of each artwork were also carefully thought out. This year, 21_21 Design Sight is set to take the exhibit beyond Japan.
Teaming up with exhibition experts INCEPTION, Audio Architecture will be showcased in Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Cultural and Creative Park, a creative hub rebuilt from an abandoned sake factory. On top of its original vision, “to see the world with design”, the exhibition aims to allow visitors to “visualise sound”, creating a fun connection of listening to music with your eyes.
In Audio Architecture, Nakamura brings together a millefeuille of elements through the artistic and technical expressions of nine different creators, traversing the fields of film, animation, dance, graphic design, illustration, programming and media design. As he says, “Music cannot be perceived with the eyes; it can only be heard with the ears. It is something special and different, isolated from visual orientation and space.”
His intention is simple: to learn to appreciate the ordinary things in life from a design perspective. Music was one of the elements he appreciated, but it was rare to set the core of an entire exhibition around the concept of sound or music, let alone associate it with architecture. For him, it became necessary for the audience to walk into a space built on the basis of sound, and then immerse them in an environment that allowed them to acknowledge its transformation, visualised on-screen via a beautiful cross-media collision.
Highlights from Audio Architecture
“Cocktail Party in the Audio Architecture” by Keita Onishi: An exploration of the “cocktail party effect” phenomenon of hyper-focusing on a particular sound while tuning out others. The creator believes that when we listen to music, we don’t just use our hearing, but incorporate our other senses too.
“airflow” by Yoriko Mizushiri: A humorous and sensual movement of lines, featuring multiple familiar objects such as sushi, tissue paper and balloons, moving in sync to lyrics.
“Endgame Study” by Ryo Orikasa: Texts of authors, poets and philosophers come to life as letters float off a flat surface, celebrating the creation of a new language.
Finding inspiration from the unlikeliest of places
When asked about how he came up with the concept of Audio Architecture, Nakamura says, “Standing in a bookstore reading a ladies’ magazine, I chanced upon a comment by American singer-songwriter Sean Ono Lennon in an article, where he described famous Shibuya-kei musician Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) with these words: ‘He paints a kind of audio architecture.’ Something clicked, and I instantly knew that this was the expression I was looking for! ‘Audio architecture’ sums it up so perfectly: music can be presented on a timeline that is similar to an auditory construction.”
Nakamura proceeded to get in touch with Cornelius, hoping that he could compose a song of the same name for the exhibition. Having worked together previously during their Design Ah! (a children’s educational TV programme) days, Cornelius readily agreed and came up with this psychedelic masterpiece. The song pays homage to both running themes of sound and architecture, with lyrics such as Time/Space | Light/Shadow | Shape/Material | Mass/Void | Grid/Module | Structure/Surface.
Harmoniously connected via the common ground of sound, the visual art space that is Audio Architecture takes the audience through a series of subtle changes and powerful fluctuations condensed into a trippy loop, made possible with a huge projection spanning 25 metres long. Designed by internationally-renowned interior designer Masamichi Katayama of Wonderwall, the screen displays a carousel of visual effects and images that match the sounds, thereby amplifying the sensory experience.
After a visit to Ryoan-ji, a Zen temple in Kyoto, Katayama became inspired by the feeling of being surrounded by space. After all, the most important achievement for a curator is to establish and maintain the connection between exhibition and visitor, and the large screen he built for Audio Architecture allows a fully immersive interaction that echoes that feeling.
Audio Architecture by Yugo Nakamura is slated as the finale exhibition of 2020 at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park. For more information on exact dates and opening hours, visit the art centre’s official website.
All Images: INCEPTION
Writer | Michelle Tan
Underneath her RBF, Michelle is actually a friendly raccoon. Loves collecting ugly things, changing her hair colour, and dinosaurs (not necessarily in that order).