La Burbuja: A Sound Booth For Sonic Trace

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Click to view FULL SCREEN, then SHOW INFO, this way you can view information about the submissions and the architects and designers!

Last month we launched a competition to find a design for a soundbooth for KCRW’s new series of stories called Sonic Trace, a new show of stories from Mexican and Central American immigrants being created by Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Eric Pearse-Chavez (in partnership with Localore and the Association of Independents in Radio.)

The conditions were tough: a tight budget, tight deadline and the designer had to build the project themselves. But still we got lots of interest and by the end of last week, 30 proposals. In Anayansi’s words, she and Eric were “humbled” by the response and the chance they offered to “dream” about something more than a basic structure they’d anticipated building in their back yard (hear them on this DnA).

Designs came in from seasoned architects and from emerging talent, from Los Angeles to as far as Barcelona, from people who evidently had experience with audio recording environments and those who were more interested the challenge of how to represent KCRW and Sonic Trace in physical form. See some of the ideas below.

Design by John Friedman and Alice Kimm
Sound Yurt by Bill Ferehawk
Design by Jose Sanchez, Erick Rodriguez and Carlos Moreno of Interfaz
“Entrevistadero” by Company & Company Design Studio
“Nomad” by IKstudio
Design by Aaron Neubert Architects
“Bubble Booth” by Kelly Bair of Bair/Dunn, Central Standard Office of Design

The jury of KCRW staffers included Anayansi and Eric, me,  DJ Raul Campos, our engineer David Greene, DnA’s co-producer and audio engineer Ray Guarna, Harriet Ells, Director of Talk; to these we added an architect, Michael MacDonald (with the architectural firm of Clive Wilkinson Architects, which is designing KCRW’s new building). The jury brought very different priorities to the table; David Greene has years of experience lugging audio equipment from place to place so concerns himself with the practical requirements; Anayansi and Eric come from Mexico and are new to LA and its enormous design talent, but feel deeply committed to the story-telling goals of their project, Sonic Trace; then Michael examined the projects from the vantage-point of an experienced and critical architect.

It was very hard to single out one design, because many of them were so interesting. But eventually we did choose one.

Hugo and Christin, bottom middle of image
David Greene had talked about how an audio engineers seeks a “sphere of silence” and as it happens, our choice was a “sphere.” La Burbuja,  or “bubble” was designed by a designer/builder named Hugo Martinez, with his girlfriend Christin To (currently studying architecture at Harvard) and his firm maT-Ter.

With help from family and friends, they conceived a silvery orb that would open up in sections like a chocolate orange to reveal a womb-like recording space inside. The concept was for a “non-place”, in which the interviewee would be suspended in time and space, while passersby would see themselves reflected in a globe both dematerialized and opaque.

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The visual presentation they gave us made the sphere seem seamless and perfect and we are aware that this could be hard to achieve in reality, and hard to maintain, especially on the low-budget. We have already discussed the possibility of changing the external finish. However, Hugo, who studied architecture at Columbia, then worked for architect Thom Mayne at Morphosis, and is experienced in fabrication, is convinced he can realize the concept in its simple purity. Now comes that test. We are now launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it and we will be tracking progress of the project.

In the meantime, you can see his and all the other designs, on display at Dwell on Design, where KCRW/DnA will have a booth. We hope to see you there.

(Sonic Trace is part of Localore, a national initiative of AIR and produced in collaboration with KCRW and Zeegat with principal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.)