This project developed from a challenging brief to improve the acoustic performance of a large central atrium space of the STRIP1 Biotechnology building on the Monash University Clayton campus. This atrium operates as the main circulation zone and meeting hub for the building. The space contains the main staircase to all levels and is activated on one side by a café and another by the main airlock entry to Innovation Walk and the campus. This is a high-use area, with regular casual meetings and events conducted on the floor of the atrium.    

The extensive volume of this space (approx. 400m² in area and 12m high) combined with high pedestrian traffic, orthogonal surfaces and hard materials led to significant problems of acoustic reverberation and low speech intelligibility for the users. Our brief was to improve the acoustic levels to allow meetings and conversation to occur more easily within the space. The budget for this intervention was $35,000.

We commenced the design process by engaging an acoustic engineer to test the performance of the space, ascertain speech intelligibility levels and provide recommendations as to the amount of acoustic absorption required to make the necessary improvements. The recommendations from this investigation was for at least 200m² of 50mm insulation to be installed within the space to provide sufficient noise reduction. This posed a design conundrum given the extensive amount of glazing and very limited available wall space of only 40m².

The sound cloud was a response to these constraints, but one that created an entirely new animated experience for the occupants of the atrium. By suspending acoustic panels over the centre of the atrium, a sufficient volume of absorption could be introduced without interrupting the pedestrian thoroughfare or glass envelope.

The conceptual framing of this project focused on introducing a new cable grid into the foyer that resonated with the regulated orthogonal geometry of the existing building. By suspending this cable net within the space and hanging evenly distributing lightweight foam panels, the grid formed a minimal surface with a very small load impact on the existing structure of the building. We engaged Ronstan and Tensys to assist with load calculation and expected levels of deformation based on the mass of the foam panels, as well as the development of connection details.

To minimise cost, Ronstan assisted in both fabrication and installation of the net, and the foam panels were then subsequently hung. On-site construction work and disruption was kept to a minimum (only 2½ days) by prefabricating all the components.

Post-installation sound tests have since been conducted confirming the improvement of the acoustics and speech intelligibility within the space. However, the real success of the project lies in its impact across a range of senses – particularly visual and haptic. Passing through the atrium has become a highly dynamic, varied and ethereal experience.


Project Team: Andrew Simpson, Ryan Bate, Danielle Mileo
Completed: 2017
Builder: Ronstan

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