City of Sound | City of Dust

City of Sound | City of Dust was an installation at the 2019 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism from September to November 2019. The installation presented five stereo channels of field recordings I made at Burning Man in 2010. The recordings include bicycles, generators, fire organs, and the persistent drone of the party metropolis, layered with harmonics harvested from dust storms.

photo copyright hyosook Chin

The sounds are diffused through five acrylic panels organized on a radial grid, echoing the layout of Black Rock City. An aerial image of the festival is laminated onto a circular steel plate at the center of the installation, providing the visual reference for the city’s form and geographic context for the sound.

photo copyright hyosook Chin
photo copyright hyosook Chin

A city is a construction of sound. Following this logic, what the city is and how it affects us becomes a much more malleable thing. If a city is a construct of sound, then a city could be shut out with the right amount of noise cancellation. If a city is a construct of sound, then one might overlay a desired city on top of what is given. A city of sound can be oppressive, full of relentless traffic and unmitigated noise pollution, or it can be collectively generated from the bottom up as a space of inclusion with a balance of loud and quiet.


SEAP (Sonorous Environment Amplification Panel) is an interface to decipher landscapes in flux. Sounds which remain otherwise inaudible are made audible through the acrylic panel, effectively serving as a landscape loudspeaker. A puddle becomes an ocean. A drainage pipe resounds like a cavern. An underwater cathedral can be heard via this periscope in reverse.

The goal with this ongoing series of installations is to make the materials, latent spaces, and landscapes come alive to our ears. What, then, may come of the action we take following the augmented experience of hearing buildings and landscapes amplified?

Raymond Twin, the first

Designed with the team at Baran Studio Architecture, this house has a non identical twin dwelling at the front of the lot. The structure is cedar-clad and maximizes light and fresh air. The living space opens onto a courtyard shared with the front house. The front house is currently under construction.


Willow Houses

Many lots around West and North Oakland have potential to add density. Using the mini lot ordinance, Nick led the design team with Baran Studio Architecture to build two new houses at the corner of 16th and Willow Streets.


Immersion Room

The Quiet Room in progress

The Immersion Room is a prototyped room for finding quiet and soaking into a virtual environment. Each of the four walls are turned into giant ambient speakers. The floor also contributes sound in the form of low frequency vibration.

The Quiet Room in progress


In 2013 Nick worked with the educational and skill-building startup , transforming a former auto body shop into offices, a storefront space and a workshop hosting sessions for kids in the neighborhood. Nick continued to work in the space and installed a 12-foot diameter Sound Dome, transmitting ambient sound into the open office environment.


Next World Offices

Completed in 2013, Nick served as Project Architect and worked directly with the Next World venture capital firm to convert a 1920s concrete building into new offices and gallery spaces. The clients required a mix of private offices and an open work space with cafe-style meeting area. Each mode of working demanded a separate way of treating sound. The solution for the open space involved three 14 by 40 foot spans of white fabric. Sound insulation and ceiling speakers were then hidden in the plenum above the fabric.


With Jensen Architects.

Blue Bottle WC Morse

Nick worked with Jensen Architects and the Blue Bottle team to design the reuse of a Ford auto showroom into a coffee bar and espresso machine repair shop. The two spaces are divided by a clear vinyl strap wall which hangs 19 feet from the ceiling down to the floor.