final studio

Metropolis Mag Future100 2023 winner

Full paper titled How Can Acoustic Technology Alter and Expand our Perception of Space?, is availble for download.

THE16 is an interactive exhibition tunnel that houses volumetric display technology introduced by scientists working in London. My goal was to create a space that is recognizable in our modern time while presenting technology in the form of interactive exhibition art. This technological application was applied to a future subway transit setting to guide travelers with unique wayfinding and traffic flow. The main spaces considered for the project are the ground-level subway entrance descending to an exhibition tunnel that arrives at platform access. Use of the tunnel leading to the platform is to initiate a slower approach to travel; “slow walk to fast transit”, accompanied by a performative approach to the layout. With the neighboring art museum and a pedestrian-centered area, this will be considered an extension of the art community. This speculative design approach aims to expand the creative dialogue between the fields of interior design and technology.


This paper suggests potential pathways for research and design-based goals for sound-focused technologies. The technological findings listed in this paper also have prospective health benefits attributed to sound frequencies and tactile holographic displays. These technologies were most applicable to a subterranean transit setting where lighting variables can be precisely controlled. This approach will allow holographic displays to appear in their most accurate representations. With the current information available for volumetric displays, today's challenge is the ability to apply such methods in larger formats outside of 16x16 inch cubes. This paper also recognizes the differences in how user groups move through slower-paced transit hubs and interface with installation art displays. This speculative design approach aims to open a creative dialogue between the fields of interior design and technology.


In a society that tends to lean towards hyper-visualization, sound is often considered a secondary ancillary sense by default. One might argue that sound is the most fundamental sense. According to Neuroscientist Seth Horowitz, “You hear anywhere from 20 to 100 times faster than you see,” Horowitz says, “so that everything that you perceive with your ears is coloring every other perception you have, and every conscious thought you have.” Sound, he says,” gets in so fast that it modifies all the other input and sets the stage for it.” (McQuay, Joyce 2015).
The initial idea for the research was to contemplate how we identify space through sound. On a more scientific level, how sound is created and used. Researching acoustic phonons (sound particles) and wavelength vibrations led to incorporating ultrasound technology and hypersonic frequencies into the paper. At this stage of the research, the primary intention was to find new ways of approaching our perception of space and thinking beyond visual limitations.

The goal was to explore the concept of using tactile holograms as flexible design elements and objects. Use smartphones as an analogy; everything in your smartphone now was once an individual, separate machine made of bulky matter. A speaker for music, microphone for recording audio, camera, calculator, and not least of all, the entirety of the internet now all fit into a tiny handheld device. The same could be possible for physical objects.

The ability to conveniently access a database that would allow three-dimensional rendering of tactile holographic furniture, walls, and other design elements with immediately customizable options would revolutionize how we utilize and modify spaces. Applying these technologies in a public setting can provide adaptable wayfinding methods, fluid navigation aids, variable configurations of FF&E, and installation art.


Phonons are quantized sound particles. Akin to photons, the phonon energy is related to the frequency of sound waves. Vibrations move away from the source of the sound in oscillating wave patterns that are identified by frequency and amplitude. Acoustics within a space reflect frequencies and pressure within the sound wave altering how we perceive the original sound. Within an interior space, the direction or sound can be manipulated through sound treatment producing a range of auditory perceptions.

Perception begins with the senses. There are many difficult challenges to contend with when studying perception considering it is impossible to truly measure what someone experiences empirically. Then there are those who experience sensory input quite differently than the general population. Those with synesthesia may see colors in correlation with sounds, give personality and textures to numbers, or assign taste to different shapes. Temporary synesthesia is also sometimes reported in psychedelic compound experimentation.

Sensory research is allowing for more opportunities to explore perception as a tool to alter our behavior and individual experiences. For example, sound frequencies have shown their usefulness in altering the taste of food. 

Chopsticks that provide vibrational haptic feedback to the user are shown to increase the perception of saltiness in food.This is being studied and utilized in Japan to reduce salt intake in response to the country’s high rate of hypertension. Frequencies are also being used to research the main types of Alzheimer’s disease. Frequencies at 40 Hz are produced to trigger the perception of sound and light flickering. The goal for this is to preserve cognitive function and promote healthy brain activity, reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Rethinking the Human Design

When observing our physical makeup, there are many exciting aspects that may affect how we perceive ourselves as humans. What truly makes the human? “The human is never simply human. Tens of thousands of different species are suspended within each human body and the body itself suspended within a dense environment of countless species outside it.

“It is never clear where the human begins and ends” --  “the human is a mobile cross-species collaboration, and the collaboration is fluid, multiple, and ever-shifting.”(Colomina, Wigley 219).

With a human body that is unstable and ever-changing, it is hard to truly distinguish where the line is. The body is in a constant state of revision and transformation. We change the body’s chemistry with drugs, creams, and other substances. We are in a perpetual state of redesign. With this in mind, we may take that thought process and apply it to our external spaces. If we accept the fact that we are made up of energy on a quantum level, we should not overlook the possibilities of harnessing that energy as a tool for shaping our surroundings.

An interview with Dr. Martinez-Plasencia of University College London, gave insight into current applications of this technology. This is also when information about Ivan Sutherland was shared. Ivan Sutherland, a recipient of the Turing Award, IEEE John von Neumann Medal, Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, and IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award, is known as the Father of computer graphics. He published a paper titled The Ultimate Display, a theory described as “a room in which a computer can directly control the existence of matter. This kind of display would merge the digital and the physical world, dramatically changing how people interact with computers.”

In 1965, Sutherland was formatting his vision for the future with virtual reality and the move towards indistinguishable-from-real computer graphics, audio, navigation, interaction, and ultimately, total perceptual immersion. A line from Sutherland’s famous paper states, “the ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal.” He created the first Augmented Reality technology at Harvard in 1968. 

Later this technology found its way into the commercial world in 2008 by German agencies in Munich for BMW advertising. This event was an unprecedented real-time and digital model interaction. Many virtual and augmented approaches are being implemented today in advertising and architecture research and in public spaces.

Researchers have been experimenting with some of Sutherland’s forward-thinking volumetric displays in London. The displays are contained within a cube, made up of an array of speakers above and below. They use C++ and proprietary software to input the information needed to communicate the desired shape. In the information provided with the video, viewers can see a butterfly floating within the box. The form is created by a single polystyrene bead that levitates continuously between the array of speakers. The bead moves rapidly, and the image is created. In addition, applying tactile features makes a more realistic presentation using such displays.  


ArticuLev: An Integrated Self-Assembly Pipeline for Articulated Multi-Bead Levitation Primitives and LeviProps: Animating Levitated Optimized Fabric Structures using Holographic Acoustic Tweezers are both accompanying outcomes for holographic research.

In Leviprops video, similar to the first project, we now see a transparent piece of cloth fabric has been attached to the polystyrene bead. Furthermore, these three-dimensional graphics can include tactile features that make holograms tangible models. The model can respond to hand gestures by using a Leap Motion sensor with additional cameras installed. Combining all of these utilities gives a chance to arrive at a place where the physical and virtual blend together.

A brief description of Dr. Martinez-Plasencia from the University of London: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences and Department of Computer Science website:

Diego Martinez Plasencia was a Lecturer of Interactive 3D graphics at the School of Informatics at the University of Sussex. His research ambition is to create multi-modal interactive systems that allow users to see, hear and feel virtual 3D content in a seamless manner, without any attachments or additional devices (e.g. glasses, gloves).

Dr. Martinez-Plasencia is part of the team that provided the information listed in the review of literature: A Volumetric Display for Visual, Tactile and Audio Presentation Using Acoustic Trapping. The interview was conducted via video conferencing. Questions were sent beforehand via email and discussed over the call.

• Since the time of publication, have there been any new developments to the project that you can share?

• Would the use of additional ultrasound speakers in a linear placement project enough vibrations to form something representing a barrier?  

• Could the polystyrene beads become larger in size at this point?

• Could this method work with speakers farther apart, such as a floor-to-ceiling distance of 8 ft.?

• What are your thoughts on bringing science and interior design together for our future?

More information was shared by Dr. Martinez-Plasencia during the call. A lot of which were already in the database and have been peer-reviewed from previous research at Sussex University in London. He shared links to ArticuLev: An Integrated Self-Assembly Pipeline for Articulated Multi-Bead Levitation Primitives and LeviProps: Animating Levitated Optimized Fabric Structures using Holographic Acoustic Tweezers. These two links shared a video of the team’s research around levitation and holography. He was excited to share the findings of the studies and the possibilities they have encountered. Articulev introduces levitation of matter that can be connected to physical objects, such as cloth. The transparent cloth is provided a shape that can portray a known item or figure. The levitation works through acoustic trapping configurations by attaching the fabric to the polystyrene beads.

He stated that currently, the team is looking to find ways of demonstrating the work through possible art exhibitions. The boxes include ultrasound transfusers (speakers) where high-pressure waves arrive at the same point. This is how the bead is controlled to create a shape. As of right now, the size of these boxes that contain the acoustic setup is 16-inch by 16-inch cubes. The system can be configured with multiple boxes that present an array of boxes for an exhibition. When asked what he thinks of integrating technology with interior design, he mentioned the work of Ivan Sutherland and encouraged digging into this thought process. This is the overall objective for the future.

Installation Art

If displays with tactile functions can perform tasks such as signage and holographic assistance, we can reduce construction waste through mass production. Volumetric displays can be controlled with high-intensity frequencies, and displays may potentially have physical characteristics. This could lead to informing our environments in the most convenient way. Today there are many studies on holography in the medical military training, data and security fields. Interior design should be approached with the same ideas for advancement. This study aims to create an easier way to generate custom outcomes for design needs.

It is also relevant to look at how technology is used in various art mediums. Installation art is constructed on small and large-scale projects, either temporary or permanent. Some installations are rented for a duration of months to years for a site. Site-specific creations can house a more precise installation. This is something that may include special wiring and molding. Installation artworks are often created for a public setting instead of private collections or exhibitions.

Installation art started in the 1960s-70s but is commonly associated with an earlier time when Marcel Duchamp was credited for starting the Dada art movement. This movement is described as “the seeking of an alternative to representing objects in paint.” Duchamp began presenting objects themselves as art. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “Readymades,” as he called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” (MoMa)

How installation art is interpolated into architecture makes way for an exciting path. Bernhard Leitner was explicitly interested in acoustics within architecture but on a deeper level. Leitner experimented with sound and human movement through spaces as an architect in his earlier years.

Leitner expresses his approach, “so I wanted to work with the medium of sound architectonically and sculpturally, to design space. I went through various steps. At first, I formulated theoretical texts, which I also published. This was clarified through writing. Then I rented a large loft in New York as a laboratory to be able to start with full-scale acoustic investigations of space. Through these investigations, I came to the fundamental questions of hearing. Furthermore, to characteristics that, it seems, have gotten lost in our visually dominated culture. One of the findings was that hearing shouldn’t be equated with the sense organ (ear), since our entire body is exposed to sound waves” (Panoptes).

Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel plate creates just that work of art that encompasses a genuine sound sculpture. At 118 1/8 x 118 1/8 x 24 inches, weighing 330 pounds, the plate is a site-specific installation featured until recently in the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Suppose the spaces we utilize can encapsulate a meaningful experience by nudging some of our senses’ deeper, less used aspects. This may even promote a state of hyper-awareness or mindfulness. This could provide a solution to visual overstimulation and allow expansion of sensory perception beyond the visual realm.


In a written exploration by Ayman Kassem titled A Performative Understanding of Spatial Design, learning from exhibitions, many of these thoughts are addressed. The idea is to approach architecture with practices that focus on exhibition design, installation art, and scenography to deliver performative spatial experiences. When looking at a project like the Blur Building, where visitors were encouraged to interact with the building, this showed a good combination of installation and architecture. Diller Scofidio + Renfro created a framework for the building and finished it with a water pumping system engulfing the area with a cloud-like form. The idea here was to give a transformative experience of reality within the space.

“Exhibitions, pavilions, and installations are all concerned with changing the performance of the existing space. Therefore, they can illustrate what a ‘performative-oriented architecture’ could be or mean.”
(Kassem, 2019).

The deeper meanings within these installations are received through interaction. James Turrell’s work has identified the relationship between light and space since the 60s. His work is considered architectural installation that comes from larger-than-life forms.

“James Turrell has dedicated his practice to what he has deemed perceptual art, investigating the materiality of light. Influenced by the notion of pure feeling in pictorial art, Turrell’s earliest work focused on the dialectic between constructing light and painting with light, building on the sensorial experience of space, color, and perception. These interactions became the foundation for Turrell’s oeuvre” (Pace Gallery).

Our future in architecture, design, and how humans will continue to receive them is a topic that demands proper attention. We may live in a world where augmented reality becomes the draped filter over a general mass of materials. Different versions of reality are being thrown at us rapidly.

The goal is to create a positive narrative to push these advancements forward. In our daily lives, there is constant motion and transaction. If we examine a form of transit to apply the former applications, a subway train station is a performative space on its own.

Underground platforms, for some time, have been home to many art forms. Buskers entertain passersby with music, graffiti is commonly a representation of visual art, and even the arrival and departure of trains and travelers could be considered a form of performative art. Patrons have access to watch people in motion, coming and going, interacting with one another, saying goodbye to a lover, hugging a grandparent, and even observing a carefully selected outfit someone wears to fit their role for the day. Being in that public space is the perfect blending of scents, voices, sounds, and warm textures.

We have the opportunity to give travelers a moment to enter a transformative experience before departure, ideal for enrichment and memory. The goal is to apply intermixed versions of installation art and technologies to present the story. A slower-paced approach to the train platform is encouraged within this interior space. Aligning these practices can make a difference in the future of public spaces.

Site Analysis: Existing Property

The current proposed site is located south of the Frist Art Museum in downtown Nashville, Tennessee at the Republic Parking System. This lot is directly south of the Frist Green, a pedestrian lawn that is accessible from the parking lots is where the entry point for the project will be placed.  With the Frist Art Museum as a neighbor, this allows the visitor demographic to be those likely to engage with the tunnel addition. Using pre-pandemic information, there were 359,352 visitors in 2019 alone, with 61,327 under the age of 18. The current state of the proposed property is a vacant parking lot neighboring the newly developed JW Marriot by Turnberry Associates. A previous mention referring to an underground tunnel development was in 2018, to connect the Tennessee State Capitol and Cordell Hull building. The 450 ft. tunnel is a part of a $126 million project. Although there are disadvantages to this approach, the city coil benefits from a solid mode of transportation to commute residents from Franklin to the north of Nashville. The limestone rock that the city is built on proposes difficulties in the digging process, high budgets, and length of time.

Program Data

Average subway platforms are an average length of 525 ft. in length for IRT station platforms, 615 ft. long for BMT platforms, and 660 ft. long for IND platforms. The proposed pedestrian underpass length reaching the platform area is estimated to be 570 ft., 40 ft. in width and 30 ft. in height, with a volume of 684,000 ft3. The upper level access building length is 147 ft. and 40 ft. in width. The total depth from top to bottom will reach 85 ft. The tunnel ends at an escalator for travelers to access the additional underpass to arrive at the platform. This is to avoid unwanted pressure fluctuations from micro-pressure waves at train arrival times. Concourse levels will be modified due to the discontinuation of ticketing booths. Tickets will be purchased via apps and functions similar to Amazon Go stores where “cashierless” process occurs. Assistance will still be available at two information booths.

Design Proposal

Organize a space that can house volumetric holographic displays and various installation types to enhance the visitor experience. The proposed hub will feature multimodal three-dimensional elements and space planning to guide guests. The main spaces considered for the project are the ground-level subway entrance descending to an exhibition tunnel that arrives at platform access. The use of the tunnel leading to the platform is to initiate a slower approach to travel, “slow walk, to fast transit,” accompanied by a performative approach to the layout. With the neighboring art museum next door and a pedestrian-centered area, this will be considered an extension of the art community.

Student exhibition poster design by Lisa Li
Thank you to Sedshop Co.

The December 15th exhibition. 

This project was visually represented through a video tour, VR headset tour, rendered images, and plans.


Art and Design Studio
Selected Works

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