Helsinki Childrens Hospital

Soundscape Design for Helsinki New Children’s Hospital

 

 
BETTER SOUND 2019 | Category: 3.1 Soundscapes and Ambient Sound

 

Entrant
Aalto University
 
Abstract

The soundscape for New Children’s Hospital Helsinki has been developed by lecturer Antti Ikonen and Sound in New Media MA students of Aalto University. The soundscape follows the visual themes of each floor creating a soothing sonic environment for the children and staff and are played through 60 loudspeakers placed in lounges of the hospital.

 

Description

The New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki is the largest children’s clinic in Finland. The sound design project was developed and implemented from September 2017 to August 2018 by Sound in New Media MA students of Aalto University’s Media Lab under the mentorship of university lecturer, Antti Ikonen. 

The hospital has a visual theme for each floor such as space, mountain, magic, sea among many others. The soundscapes of the hospital have been designed corresponding to these themes. The primary aim was to create soundscapes that make the hospital environment sonically less intimidating for the kids. The soundscape is generative, not looping, in order to avoid ear fatigue.

Some of the questions that were considered while designing the sounds are as follows:

  • What kind of sonic elements should be considered for designing the soundscape of a hospital?
  • What sounds fit into the themes of each floor?
  • Who are the listeners (doctors, nurses, patients, visitors) and how long will they be exposed to the sounds?
  • What emotional effect are we looking for?
  • Considerations about the tone, density and loudness of the soundscapes
  • How does the narrative unfold over a long period?  

Set up
The sounds are playing from a MAX patch. The entire patch set up has been divided into several modules as follows: 

  • File player module – This module fades a file in and out every x minutes.
  • Soundscape module – This module has a few main controls such as volume, fade time etc. and contains multiple File player modules.
  • Main program – This module has few main controls such as volume etc., multiple Soundscape modules and has all the outputs.

Loudspeaker arrangement
Genelec and Panphonics, two Finnish loudspeaker manufacturers donated 60 loudspeakers in total which were placed in the different lobbies and corridors of the hospital. The sound system is entirely operated from one computer feeding all the speakers over the hospital’s IP network. Through this set-up, it was possible to assign details of the soundscapes to any of the 60 speakers.

Production
In the production process, sounds have been recorded and composed. Later these sounds have been tested out in different spaces at Aalto University. Based on the feedback, the soundscapes have been modified. The final soundscapes have been fine-tuned on location in the hospital and adjusted according to each space.

The main technical challenge was to debug the digital audio signal chain from the computer through several hardware routers and interfaces all the way to the loudspeakers. According to the hospital representatives, the soundscape has been playing seamlessly 24/7 since the opening of the hospital in September 2018. The next phase of the project is a thorough survey on how patients, their parents and the hospital personnel are experiencing the soundscape.

More details and excerpts from the soundscapes can be found here.