Inhabiting Gaudí: an architecture and engineering approach to human comfort and buildings of the future.

The Project

At the intersection between architecture and engineering, this research project focuses on the concept of space as a socio-physical environment.

What does that mean? We live and work in places not only conditioned by their structure, but also by the perception we build from what we receive through our senses when we inhabit them.

This project offers, from architecture and technology, an approach to environmental psychology and the perception of the environment, analysing relevant variables such as colour, heat, light, ventilation, privacy and, especially, sound. All of them are involved in our perception of a place and are environmental stimuli directly linked to behavioural and emotional responses, and even to health. Topics that are gaining relevance in the architecture and engineering of the future.

We will have an exceptional case study to investigate and analyse, the Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, an iconic building in Barcelona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the last private residence designed by the brilliant architect Antoni Gaudí.

We will work to understand the architecture and environmental factors that impact our acoustic perception, thus our comfort and health. Analysing different parts of the building and its interior soundscape, as part of its own character, and the imprint it leaves on the inhabitant; and also the influence of the external soundscape that enters through windows and balconies, the urban environment and its sounds (and noises), which influences the life in the place.

So, imagine yourself as Antoni Gaudí, the genius architect, and discover his thinking and how he designed the spaces in his extraordinary and renown buildings. Just by doing a quick search on the Internet, you will notice that he not only paid attention to function or form but to many other parameters. He carefully observed and was inspired by nature to design and build singular spaces.

Taking Gaudí's original design of La Pedrera as a starting point, we will learn about the brilliant solutions he proposed, and we will also look at the evolution over the years. We will use technology and new knowledge provided by architecture and engineering to analyse the current reality of the building and its behaviour, and we will discover what La Pedrera can tell us today, through its interior and exterior soundscape.

On the one hand, the analysis of the socio-physical environment will be carried out with the help of descriptions of the techniques, concepts and solution used by Gaudí in the design and construction of La Pedrera to respond to all the requirements of a residential building (heat and ventilation, privacy, light, sound...).

On the other hand, we will work to understand the sound: from its physical propagation to its impact on life, looking at the perception of sound and noise, and its impact to inhabitant’s mood and wellbeing by understanding how citizen science can help us to gather this valuable information. To this end, the acoustics quality of rooms we will be assessed by means of objective technical measurements using sound level meters, among other instrumentation, but also through perceptual evaluations based on citizen science.

The first experiments will be conducted in the Acoustics Lab of La Salle R&D Campus, which contains a reverberant chamber and a full anechoic chamber, two singular spaces that easy the comprehension of the physical nature of sound. Afterwards, we will apply the learned techniques to study in deep the different spaces of La Pedrera. We will try to understand in situ the reasons of Gaudí that lead him to the design, and the impact that the soundscape of the building (indoors and outdoors) still has nowadays to inhabitants.

Matching profiles

This project is addressed to students interested in Architecture and Engineering.

Learning objectives
  • To understand the relevance of the sociophysical environment in relation with the architecture narrative and the perception of the person.
  • To learn from the basic techniques used by the genius architect Gaudí in La Pedrera-Casa Milà to face the challenges in terms of light, ventilation, sound and heat more than 100 years ago.
  • To approach the concept of soundscape in an emblematic building, to understand it in nowadays language and environment.
Required materials
  • Smartphone
  • Laptop
Coordinators of the project
Rosa Maria Alsina-Pagès

Rosa Maria Alsina-Pagès

  • Her research topics are signal processing and machine learning applied to communications and acoustics, soundscape, citizen science.
  • Has published 45 JCR-WOS impact journals, 22 in Q1 journals, in acoustics and sensing, and its impact in health, in the last 10 years.
  • +85 participations in conferences and workshops of acoustics and health impact
  • + than 35 projects (16 led by herself) funded from public calls or private companies.
  • Research collaborations with ISGlobal (Barcelona) in terms of noise and health; with UCL – Barlett Institute (UK) in terms of Soundscape; with TUBerlin (Germany) in terms of Citizen Science; with CNR (Italy) in terms of noise and perception.
Josep Ferrando

Josep Ferrando

  • Director of the School of Architecture of La Salle Barcelona (ETSALS).
  • Director of the Open Center for Architecture in Barcelona.
  • Director of the Department of Culture of the College of Architects of Catalonia – period awarded with the National Prize of Culture.
  • Curator of the Barcelona Biennial of Thought.
  • International recognitions: FAD awards; 15th Spanish Architecture and Urbanism Biennial Award; Buenos Aires International Architecture Biennal BIABA’15 Award; European Union Award nominee for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award.
  • Monographic exhibitions in Biennale di Architettura di Venezia, at Architekturforum Aedes (Berlin), Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago de Chile and the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) of Rio de Janeiro. In 2016 was part of the ‘Unfinished’ exhibition in the Spanish pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, awarded with the Golden Lion.
  • Lectured at GSD Harvard, MIT Masachussetts, Cornell University, Cooper Union, and at International Conferences as UIA’11 in Tokyo and BIAU’19 Asunción.
Associated researchers
Ricardo Devesa

Ricardo Devesa

  • Research topics: relationships between architecture and nature; mass-media & architecture; expanded architecture & urban environments; innovation on architectural pedagogies.
  • Has published 14 articles on impact journals.
  • +20 participations in conferences and workshops.
  • Has was member of the research group Theory and Criticism of City, Architecture and Art (TICA), and co-founder of the Group for the Innovation and Teaching Logistics in Arquitecture, both at the Barcelona Tech University (UPC).
  • Research projects collaborations: Knowledge Alliance for Advanced Urbanism (KAAU), co-funding by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union; and the Artificial Intelligence in Architecture Design (AIAD) on Public Housing, at UPC.
Irma Arribas

Irma Arribas

  • PhD in Communication in Design and Architecture, her research focuses on understanding architecture as a means of communication, studying, on the one hand, the parameters involved in the construction of socio-physical environments -sound, temperature, light...-, as well as the perception of by individuals.
  • Teaching given at the bachelor's and master's level in various international design, art, architecture, and business universities focuses on the design and methodological processes that raise awareness about architecture as a means of communication.
  • Her research work feeds on artistic exploration processes, having exhibited in numerous museums and art centers.
  • Works as a space designer in digital and electronic art exhibition environments, which gives her an expanded vision of the capabilities of technology in relation to spatial parameters such as sound, lighting, and the relationship with people.
Marc Arnela

Marc Arnela

  • He researches in the field of acoustics, performing computer simulations and experiments to study the human voice, duct acoustics, parametric arrays (ultrasounds), and room acoustics. 
  • +17 articles in first rank international scientific journals and +45 participations in international conferences.  
  • +16 R&D projects (10 led by himself) funded from European, Spanish, and Catalan agencies in public calls and from private companies. 
  • Awarded with the best PhD thesis in Iberspeech 2016 (Lisbon, Portugal) and the EAA best paper in Forum Acusticum 2014 (Krakow, Poland).
  • Collaborations with research groups in Catalonia (CINME, Eurecat), France (Gipsa-lab, LAUM), Germany (TU-Dresden), Sweden (KTH), and Canada (UBC).
Marc Freixes

Marc Freixes

  • He researches in the field of signal processing of audio and speech with particular emphasis on their perception.
  • 4 articles in international scientific journals and +16 participations in international conferences.
  • +7 R&D projects funded from European, Spanish, and Catalan agencies in public calls and from private companies.
  • Collaborations with ISGlobal (Barcelona) in terms of noise and health, with UCL – Barlett Institute (UK) in terms of Soundscape and with TUBerlin (Germany) in terms of Citizen Science.
The center
La Salle

La Salle I+D is a research center located in the Campus of La Salle - Ramon Llull University, which brings together 6 recognized research groups, as well as TECNIO, a technology and knowledge transfer center.