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Acoustics Experiment in Brunel’s Thames Tunnel

In this project, tunnels that exist below London streets for a variety of communications, civil defense, and military purposes will be used as the objects of the experiment. This particular site is chosen in order to test and experiment with the different aspects of human senses and in particular the effects and importance of sound. Brunel’s Thames underwater tunnel is the first successful tunnel under the Thames. It is constructed beneath Thames River in London.

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One of the main characteristics of the tunnel is the sound reflection. The tunnel comprises an area with specific acoustics, as you are able to hear the sounds and the voices of the city above the tunnel. Every day many people are crossing this tunnel to avoid the traffic. People rarely and in most cases do not notice the sound vibrations from various directions and the way sound changes in different localities of the tunnel due to safety purposes and lack of interest.

The sounds present in the tunnel vary in magnitude and direction. The sources of sounds in tunnels include the vibration of the vehicles and the train, people walking above the ground, and the voices of the people who are walking in the tunnel among others.

Many scholars have concluded that sound is the most important aspect of the animal kingdom and human coexistence. Our project involves the effects of sound and its effects when the introduction of a room or space is made. For sound to exist, a room or space for its transmission must exist. The experiment consists of one box, which is made of clear acrylic with dimensions 30cm by 30cm. The box has holes where different boxes fit in them.

These boxes are made of different materials such as plywood, brass, copper, plastic and they are of different sizes. The smaller boxes change the geometry, the materiality, and the size of the main box by the act of placing them in and out of the main box. Voices are passed in the small boxes to create different rhythms and variations of sound. The boxes are also scratched and hit in turn and the variations of produced sounds recorded and blended with the use of processing speakers and microphones.

The sounds playback and people can get the sound experience of each object. It is noted that every time you move or remove a box from the mailbox, in the presence of sound, the sound is changing because the qualities and sizes of the space are changing. This device interacts with space, in which it is placed, and the sound of each box depends on the space created and on the pitch of the voice.

Similar boxes are placed in different positions in the tunnel where both space, geometry, and the external sounds are changing. Speakers and microphones are also placed in the ceiling of the site and space are transformed into a sonic experience. Due to the tunnel’s location, geometry, and size, there are many sound vibrations that are caused by the vehicles, the trains, and the people in the tunnels surrounding. The sounds of the objects and the sounds of the site are recorded and blended and the tunnel is transformed into a sonic experience for the people who are crossing it.

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Importance of sound

The intent of the project is to elaborate on the relationship between sound, materiality, space, and human interaction. This has been achieved by the design of a device, which has the ability to change its geometry, size, and materiality, which are factors that can change the sound. Sound is an important part of the world of arts and there are many artists who are involved in projects that are related to the relationship between sound and space.

Some of the projects that have been used as an inspiration for the project’s main idea are the Playing Building, Fine Collection of Sound Curious Objects, and Zimoun. The main concept of these projects is analyzing the relationship between sound and space and both projects conclude similarly but in different ways.

For example, the scheme of Playing the Building can be defined as a reverberation system where the substantial stand of the structure is transformed into an enormous musical device. Instruments are connected to the structure —metallic beam and columns, the heating and water pipes — and are made use of in the production of sound. They are generally divided into three divisions: vibration, striking, and wind. The gadgets do not create resonance themselves, however, they make the building essentials to tremble, reverberate, and alternate so that the structure itself turns out to be a very huge melodious device. Excellent compilation of resonance probing object is a scheme, which comprises of six outstanding displays from the world of reverberation and acoustics.

The mysterious quality of each item is escorted with a tiny account, almost wholly screening the survival of scientific mechanisms such as sensors or speakers. Processing is commonly used for footage in live acoustic participation, adjusting the playback, and creating digital resonance according to antenna statistics. Sound platforms that are architecturally minded are built by Zimoun through the use of functional simple components.

Zimoun’s installations reflect the exploration of flow and mechanical rhythms in prepared systems and they incorporate commonplace industrial. Using simple cardboard boxes, which work as a speaker to complex mechanisms that produce, sounds; space could be transformed into a multi-sensory experience for people who visit the space. All these projects work as an inspiration for the design of the device. Objects which sing back, space which produces ‘’itself’’ sounds, and boxes which work as speakers will be some of the key elements of the final device.

Sound and space

According to research conducted by scholars on sound and its transmission, they concluded that sound cannot exist without the presence of space.

Effects on sound

The degree of sound production and clarity depends on several aspects. They include:

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  • Type of materials. The types of materials that construct the ceiling, floor, and walls of the room including other physical materials have acoustic impacts. In brief, the acoustic characteristics of objects in a room are influenced by the quantity of sound that is replicated by the object.
  • The geometry of the room. The geometry of a room, angles and the location of the walls, furniture, ceiling, floor, and any additional material items in the room produce a change in acoustic of the room.
  • The size of the room. The variations of frequencies vary depending on the size of the room. The size of the room determines how high or low resonance frequencies appear.

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