The Influence of Sound and Space on the Mind

Figure 1.

“Listen! Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sound, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere. That has to do with the shape peculiar to each room and with the surfaces of the materials they contain, and the way those materials have been applied.” [1]

Sound has been a relative concept in both architecture and therapy for thousands of years. As a mechanism for healing it was worked with by healers and doctors in ancient civilisations as a powerful tool to induce meditative states and aid the intelligence of our bodies to feel, heal, relax & release. [2] Sound healing technology today inherits its rich history by practicing for a similar purpose, including helping with mobility and relieving certain ailments including anxiety and insomnia.

Thinking about being by the ocean on a calm afternoon with waves crashed by your feet, or the sound of a trickling water stream with birds chirping in the background. The chemical effect that happens in our mind and body when we hear satisfying sounds like these are brain wave patterns responsible for the ultimate, feel good feelings of happiness and abundance. Ofcourse, there’s no better place to experience these sounds than to actually be there in real time, but when you’re rushing to get to a class after finishing work on a Monday afternoon, that seems hardly a likely option. So we depend on the particular placement and setup of our yoga session to get us into that state of mental and physical flow.

Figure 2.

Scientifically we can study the marvel of the effectiveness of sound on the body by witnessing the reduction of ‘beta-waves’ in the brain which are responsible for stimulation and conscious thought, and the intense surge of ‘alpha-waves’, which brings about deep relaxation and an increased awareness of the inner-self.[3] During our yoga practice, we hope to be somewhere in between our alpha and beta waves, ending in a sublimely blissful Alpha state. This regulated state of mind is heavily reliant on the presence and spatial considerations of sound, among other things.

The spatial aspects of sound depend upon the intended goal of the exercise as all are unique in relation to development, teaching and execution.

We are able to design and practice in open, active spaces with low reverberation times that as a result amplifies the external sounds, encouraging a tactile engagement with our surroundings. This is sometimes an unintentional default outcome when our surroundings are not a part of the practice or in our control. Precisely the idea of these disciplines is to embrace these sounds and learn to accept and acknowledge the ambient noise in spite of their obvious disturbances. Ashtanga yoga is a common practice in this sort of setting as there is minimal introspection and rather physically demanding at times.

Integral or Kundalini yoga is a practice worth beginning to consider the spatial dynamics of sound or soundproofing. When we can intentionally block outside noise and control the sonic boundaries around us, we are able to forget the outside world and turn inward.  Exploring these relationships and connections is not only important for the participants benefit and understanding, but it also helps us as designers to study the relevance of soundscape disciplines / sonic architecture.

Figure 3.

“Sound is a spatial event, a material phenomenon and an auditive experience rolled into one. It can be described using the vectors of distance, direction and location. Within architecture, every built space can modify, position, reflect or reverberate the sounds that occur there. Sound embraces and transcends the spaces in which it occurs, opening up a consummate context for the listener.” [4]

Architecture does more than just create or occupy spaces for sound, however. It is a tool for us as humans to inhibit connections and feelings between our mind and the earth. When our sensors of sound are activated, the waves and vibrations from a particular of a piece of music or frequency refract off the walls and in through our bodies.[2] This sometimes triggers deep rooted memories, feelings and emotions. These spatial qualities including choice of materiality for control of sound transmission and the quality and detailing of the building for maintaining sound isolation allow for these emotionally invoking sounds to act as means for catharsis and potential healing abilities.

My personal experience with this was somewhat fascinating and certainly reflective of this. Whilst my body was releasing of energetic blockages, my mind had conjured an abundance of powerful and scarily confronting emotions. And although there was no way of telling whether or not the architecture had anything to do with this, I had to question how much of that played into the experience I had.

A similarly ethereal auditory experience is described at the Shalechet (Fallen Leaves) exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Menashe Kadishman. As an installation of over ten-thousand faces covering the floor representing the innocent victims of war and violence, Menashe was able to trigger empathetic emotions from the visitors beyond just the heightening of our optical sense; but also effectively with sound. [5]

Figure 4.
Figure 5.

“Visitors are encouraged to interact by walking on the exhibit itself: to see the open-mouths in terror, the faces of soundless screams; and to listen to the jarring clanging sounds when thick metal pieces jostle against other pieces. It’s an eerie atmosphere with the installation all to myself. I also feel what is unmistakably guilt as I tread on the “screaming” faces.” [5]

Inevitably then, what we as Architects build is architecture that allows the experience of basic components of human existence like listening, the acoustic source and its surroundings to unite into a unique auditory experience and enhance our holistic healing practice.


Figure 1. Swiss Sound Box – Peter Zumthor. Digital Image. Pinterest. Accessed April 21, 2021.

Figure 2. Immersion with Stuart Watkins, Cam Watkins & Friends. Digital Image. Stay Happening. Accessed April 21, 2021.

Figure 3. 10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics. Digital Image. The Spaces. Accessed April 22, 2021.

10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics

Figure 4 & 5. My Berlin: Shalechet (Fallen Leaves) at the Jewish Museum. Digital Image. Fotoeins Fotografie. Accessed April 20, 2021.


[1] Birkhauser, Peter Zumthor Atmospheres (Germany: German National Library, 2018), 29.

[2] “Ancient Sound Healing,” Pyramids of Chi, accessed April 20, 2021,

[3] “Sound healing in Ubud: Pyramids of Chi,” Jendela Di Bali, accessed April 20, 2021,

[4] Pnina Avidar, Raviv Ganchrow, Julia Kursell, “IMMERSED, Sound and Architecture (#78),” Oase, May, 2009,

[5] “My Berlin: Shalechet (Fallen Leaves) at the Jewish Museum,” Fotoeins Fotografie, accessed April 20, 2021,