The Sound of Museums

May 16, 2014
Index Magazine

The Sound of Museums

The new state-of-the-art speakers in the Calderwood Courtyard blend in beautifully with the aesthetics of the space.

When the Harvard Art Museums open in November, one of the most popular locations on campus will again be open to the public: the Calderwood Courtyard. The courtyard has long been a center of activity; it’s where visitors orient themselves and where journeys into the collections begin. When we open, it will host a variety of events—from seminars to celebrations.

The task of tailoring a sound system for such a versatile space fell to Matthew Moore, principal consultant with Cavanaugh Tocci Associates. He took a moment to talk to us about the new speakers that have been installed in the courtyard.

According to Moore, the courtyard’s acoustics are lively and have “a very long reverberation time,” because of the space’s large volume, the glass roof, and the columns’ travertine stone, as well as the absence of soft materials to absorb sound. Moore selected speakers with a narrow directional pattern, which means they can focus and navigate sound. “The electronics enable us to digitally steer sound toward an audience,” Moore said. “The speakers are tailored to the space.” Smaller, built-in speakers have been placed in the arcades surrounding the courtyard.

The new speakers complement the aesthetics and visual integrity of the space. Their vertical shape aligns with the layout of the courtyard itself, which stretches up to the glass roof, and their light color blends beautifully with the bright columns, illuminated by the natural light streaming in from above.