Echoes – Are There Any Serious Planning Guidelines ?
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December 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm #711557
I’m gobsmacked whenever I’m in one of these newly built credit union buildings or in one of these new USSR-style 4 star hotels and find the echo level ridiculous.
This effect is worst where there is a sort of dome or high ceiling.
I know one credit union which has a totally superfluous mini-dome directly over the front counter . . . Hardly the place to put an echo generator.
Many of the newer hotels have these high areas in their lobby.
Just sit there in one of these lobbies and see how hard it is to have a social exchange with someone (let alone a business discussion) and you’ll see what I mean. Echoes of crockery clacking from the restaurant, more echoes of glass clinking and guffaws from the bar, sound from trolleys of plates and cups carrying all over the place.
Then with so many of the newer hotels being tile-floored we get even more sound from people moving about in hard shoes . . .
I honestly think that no consideration whatever was given to acoustics in these buildings.
Do planning regulations ever consider things like quietness, privacy and congenial ambiance ?
Because if they don’t, I wouldn’t expect to get much consideration of it from the typical Irish architect.
December 10, 2012 at 11:04 am #817841
I was told by a colleague who had designed a hotel which then had its interior designed by a London firm of hotel specialists that it was an objective to make the restaurant as noisy as possible so that it seemed busier and livlier. A popular restaurant near me apparently shares the same idea and although I know many people who won’t set foot in it for this reason, I do notice that it is generaly packed.
I can’t think how this might apply to credit unions.
I don’t believe the planning regulations cover quietness, privacy and congenial ambiance, but I would expect a typical Irish architect to consider these. The Building Regulations cover sound transmission from one property to another.
December 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm #817842
I was told by a colleague who had designed a hotel which then had its interior designed by a London firm of hotel specialists . . .
Can you elaborate a bit more on this please ?
I just do not buy the idea that interior designers would have the technical competence in acoustics to manage a task like this by themselves.
So who – if anyone – did this side of the interior ?
We see several major consulting engineers firms offering acoustic engineering capability.
But I doubt if this is really offered to mundane projects like hotels and small banks – seems more of a de luxe offering to prestige projects like opera houses.
So I’m inclined to think that the hotel specialists are doing it themselves, if it’s done at all.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole idea of noisy interiors suggesting a busy establishment to attact biddable patrons is nothing more than post-hoc humbug to conceal professional incompetence and socially cynical marketing.
December 12, 2012 at 11:21 am #817843
Met colleague in restaurant of hotel he designed. Asked him why he made the restaurant so noisy. He said he didn’t, – the interior designers from London insited on specifying finishes that they knew well would create a nosiy environment. Whether you believe them or not is up to you, but I can’t believe how some retaurants are as noisy as they are, by accident. Here is a recent article I googled. There are many others.
Why Successful Restaurants Are Noisy
June 23, 2012 by eclectic24
I had assumed that restaurants are noisy because they are successful , that the loudness is a results of more patrons crowded together. It turns out that I was wrong . It seems that restaurants deliberately cultivate a noisy atmosphere because it is a factor in their success. In other words , their success is ( at least partly) because of the ambient noise.
Who’d have thought ? In earlier times , the better restaurants featured a quieter ambience where the only noises were the murmurs of hushed conversations and the subdued clink of forks and knives. Nowadays , successful restaurants have a very different atmosphere. As I think about some of the better restaurants that we’ve been to in the recent past ( Morimoto, Churrascaria Plataforma ,The Modern , Dylan Prime) , I realize that all of them were noisy . That’s to be expected at Dylan Prime ( a steakhouse) ,at Churrascaria Plataforma( a rodizio) and at The Modern ( a bar restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art). However , even at Morimoto , a luxe restaurant if ever there was one , we couldn’t carry on a conversation with friends at the other end of our table of ten ; we had to raise our voices to be heard. I remember thinking that the walls and other surfaces at Morimoto were sound reflecting and wondering why it was so. It turns out it was deliberate.
According to an article in Psychology Today ( October 2010) , not just restaurants but retail stores, boutiques and chain stores use the sound level to shape consumer environments and customer behavior. Research has established that shoppers “ make more impulsive purchases when they are overstimulated. Loud volume leads to sensory overload which weakens self – control.” The article refers to George Prochnik’s book In pursuit of Silence, saying “ At Abercrombie & Fitch , the head pounding music is also designed to attract the desired customers – teens . As one executive from the sound design firm told Prochnik ’ If it’s too loud ,you’re too old’.”
That explains a lot of things . Older people are more careful with their money , more inclined to question whether something is a good buy before they order , whether restaurant food or clothing or something else. The older people get, the more conservative they become with their purchases. On the other hand , the young spend freely and are more prone to impulse buying. No wonder stores and restaurants cater to the younger crowd. Also , people flock to places which seem to be successful in attracting others like themselves. That’s how a restaurant becomes an “in” place , and not just for the younger set.
I remember being pleased with the atmosphere at The Modern. In an earlier post ,I’d written ” the Bar Room is noisy. Many of the walls and the columns are mirrored and, no doubt, increase the noise level. … In the dining area , the tables are close together; we thought the resulting cacophony would be bothersome but that is not the case. It felt so very much like The City and pretty soon we added to the buzz.”
Quite the opposite was our experience at a Pakistani restaurant in Edison. We’d heard that their Sunday afternoon buffet offered a hundred different choices and decided to check it out . It was true. Just seeing the hundred different dishes laid out was a treat and the food was very good . However , the atmosphere left a lot to be desired. The proprietor must have been one of those ultra -conservative Muslims who believe that music was forbidden by the Koran . There was no music at all and the tables in the cavernous dining hall were occupied by a few Muslim families silently consuming their food . No smiles , little talk and of course no music. The atmosphere was gloomy and depressing and we never went back there again even though the food was good.
Without the buzz , there is no pleasure in dining out … not for the young, and not for the old.
The idea that sound levels and noise can ” over-stimulate” customers into buying things may seem far-fetched but consider this …When a wine store played French music , most customers bought French wines, while German music resulted in an upsurge in sales of German wines. Convincing, yes ?
Another little snippet from the article : A French research study showed that when songs with ” prosocial ” lyrics i.e those about empathy and helping others , were played it resulted in bigger tips . If I were a waiter , I’d try to find out what those songs were and make sure they were played at peak times !!
December 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm #817844
Thanks for that informative piece.
I do accept that restaurants and clothing shops catering for the 15-30 set do seem to be a bit chaotic, visually and soundwise. Personally, I just saw this as a desperate attempt to create what they thought would be perceived to be a distinct identity for their brand.
I’ll admit that the main pull for me and my contemporaries of Captain America’s in the late ’70s was the continual playing of Bob Dylan tracks more than the Hawaiian Burgers. (To be even more honest, the white T-shirted waitresses were also a huge draw.) That’s youth and innocence for you.
Now that’s all fine for the young and impulsive.
But for worn out salesmen, engineers doing maintenance contracts, hale and middle-aged returned Yanks meeting their Irish relations for a drink or a dinner . . .
I can’t see these 4 star hotel patrons being drawn to squashcourt acoustics.
Is all this being driven by a bunch of social work shy psychologists and pushy interior designers ?
Hardly simply those.
Can it be that the decisions on new hotel design are not made by experienced hotel managers – but rather by executives of the hotel group who never ran a hotel themselves ?
That their desire for slick fast profit made the interior designers task of selling this “new research” on consumer reactions so much easier ?
December 17, 2012 at 11:58 am #817845
Well, the architects of one hotel referred me to a firm of interior designers abroad.
The interior designers gave noting away in the 1-2 line emails I got from them.
Ultimately, they claimed that the acoustic issues were channelled through the hotel company owner – who’s location I cannot determine.
I feel inclined to agree with you, Goneill – this sort of effect can hardly be the result of an accident.
I suppose a noisy lobby would get rid of fellas who would use a hotel lobby for business meetings and force them to book a meeting room.
And get rid of those who come in for 1 single coffee on Sunday mornings just to read the hotel papers for free . . .
Or worse ?
The noisy credit union architect has yet to reply.
January 8, 2013 at 12:22 am #817846
An interesting thread of conversation.
The Radisson Blu on Dublin’s Golden Lane is unquestionably one of the best designed hotels in the city in terms of aesthetic, choice of materials and acoustic qualities. While I agree that chaotic reverberation can be a menace in public places, it has its purpose too – as alluded to in the article above. In the case of the Radisson, the foyer is grand, uncompromisingly hard, vigorously polished, echoing, and thus stately. This instantly creates ‘buzz’, excitement and a grandiose sense of arrival. It is also relentlessly durable. However, the key point of difference with most hotels is that, as a business hotel, the foyer lounge proper is a consciously dedicated zone placed a considerable distance away from the main entrance ‘concourse’, and is the main focus of the public area of the hotel. It is warm, inviting, and lined with soft surfaces and furnishings, but equally, is strongly visually linked with the main lobby through a largely open-plan ground floor arrangement.
Moving between zones, such as between the lobby and lounge, lounge and restaurant, lounge and bar, or the conference facilities, is treated in a unifying ‘hard’ manner, but the destinations are all ‘soft’ and exceptionally well considered.
Leaving aside the very occasional foray into tack, it is a supremely accomplished hotel – surprisingly, with an immaculate modern French restaurant – that thankfully remains unknown to most locals.
January 9, 2013 at 10:38 pm #817847
I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m around there though I’m still doubtful about the merits of this noisy lobby whooping up people’s spirits notion.
For one thing, it’s not as if every 4 star hotel can lay claim to this degree of grandeur, even if the 5 star clientèle – or at least some of them – can be expecting this. To my mind a person staying in a hotel through necessity (stuck there due to flight delays, doing a contract job nearby, on holidays) would be looking for a more peaceful entrée to their temporary ‘home’.
But we’ll see.
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