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The Silent Room

THE SILENT ROOM WAS AN URBAN INTERVENTION THAT PROPOSED PUBLIC SHELTERS WHERE CITIZENS COULD FREELY REST, INSULATED FROM THE NOISES OF THE CITY AND OTHER SENSORIAL AGGRESSIONS.

“Silence is becoming a commodity for the privileged,” said designer Nathalie Harb. To live in an urban environment is to be subject to a torrent of information and distraction, while public space is disappearing in a relentless wave of privatisation. The Silent Room responded to this context, providing a cocoon-like space isolated from the city’s noise. “It offers the luxury of silence to everyone, regardless of background or status. It redresses the sonic inequity within the contemporary urban landscape.”

Visitors entered a perforated brick and timber tower and ascended a staircase to the wooden upper level, which housed the Silent Room. The light inside was very dim, providing the absolute minimum of visual information: “It’s not a space that’s designed to be seen, so much as sensed,” said Nathalie Harb. The walls and floor were lined with fabric, which is also in a very subdued tone. Eight speakers gently broadcasted a field recording of the city at its quietest moments. This was all that the visitor would see and hear. “I hope that it’ll give the visitor a different way of thinking about the urban environment, of understanding it in terms of noise and silence, over-stimulation and peace: that you’ll come away from it with an increased awareness of the soundscape around you and its effects.”

The Silent Room was inspired by Nathalie Harb’s home city of Beirut. “It came out of the very particular soundscape of that city, which is itself a product of the fact that physical space is so limited there. Sounds are very close to you, and short and sharp – it’s a hugely saturated environment.” The Silent Room, on the other hand, was a place of absence. 

Credits:

  • Designer: Nathalie Harb
  • Design Team: In collaboration with BÜF architecture and 21dB
  • Supporting Bodies: Ministry of Culture, Beirut design week, Bespoke Brick, Bute Fabrics, Mason Navarro Pledge, Opsis Design, La Paloma