Sonification Mies Van der Rohe Pavillion Barcelona


Experiment of Mies Pavilion sonification



The German Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe represents a landmark of modern architecture. Its floor plan layout is simple with few building materials: travertine, onyx, glass and steel pillars, plus two water surfaces. This experiment is a first attempt to become aware of an emblematic building in Barcelona by sound. It is an attempt to give another artistic experience to the perception of it. Listening to it rather than seeing it can open new paths of understanding. Through sounds it can be detected if there is a structural order or not, if there is repetition, the time between one material and another matching the space, etc. If you hear two identical sounds, one after another, you will understand that the elements are very near. If they are far apart in time, you will imagine that they are spatially separated as well. The attentive listening is something that we’re not normally accustomed to. We have based our culture for many centuries upon the visual. It’s time we open our perception to other senses, in this case the sound.

To present the building through a sound perception means that we can extend our understanding of architectural visionaries. It is another way to enjoy architecture. This sonification also intends to give a contribution towards blind people to experience the Mies pavilion. Like a scanner, which recognizes each pixel of the picture on the ground, we hear a sound, which shows that there is a wall of marble, glass, stainless steel or water. The pavilion’s sonification has been done with the programming language Pure Data.

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From acoustics we know that each material has its resonant frequency. Applying this same frequency externally, the material can reach break. However, these frequencies do not give the impression of different acoustic materials. Therefore, frequency values have been chosen that remind us, for example, of the sound touching a wall of travertine, the sharper sound of glass, etc.


Numerical values ​​of each construction element of the pavilion floorplan have been taken in relation to the chromatic scale drawing. Then, these numbers have been adjusted to sound frequencies that relate in a way to the construction materials themselves. That is, when the scanner reaches a glass wall, the sound you hear is more acute than when it passes along travertine walls. Different materials of the pavilion have been taken from the grayscale values. Then, this drawing has been entered to the program Pure Data as an array of RGB values that detects and converts them into frequencies. The reading of the scanner that reproduces the sounds of materials has been from left to right and from top to bottom.

You can hear the sonification here: