The Aural Weather
in the Greenhouse

When sonically articulating a complex public space like the Helsinki Talvipuutarha, one possible strategy is to create different areas of sonic colour, grouping and spreading sounds to create a unique experience for every visitor and foster a bodily dialogue between the visitor and the space. This approach requires a spatial configuration of non-linear narrative, complex enough to affect our temporal perception. In Sonic Greenhouse, an algorithm controlled the continuous crossfading between predefined sonic situations, achieving a greater level of sonic complexity while keeping a natural blend of elements. This continuously evolving sonic complexity was not overwhelming to the visitor but rather contributed to the feeling of being immersed in aural weather — an intense experience of the space surpassing the perception of temporal discourse.

In Sonic Greenhouse, we conducted sensorial research, using our peripheral perception [3] to sense the atmospheres’ distribution and what our contribution to it was going to be. A very clear example of this is the atmospheric contrast between the Palm Room and the Cactus Room. Through a sensorial exploration of the space we located sound effects present in the winter garden, like the dramatic cut-out that happens when transitioning from one room to another. ‘The cut out (coupure) effect refers to a sudden drop in intensity associated with an abrupt change in the spectral envelope of a sound or a modification of reverberation [...] This effect is an important process of articulation between spaces and locations; it punctuates movement from one ambience to another.’ [10] Many other subtler sound effects were found around the fishpond, the balconies and the many interactions of these effects provided by the strong presence of the plants.

Through different spatialisation strategies, we composed aural zones of experience that rewarded audience agency as they explored the audio-architectural installation. In addition to the sound-emitting objects responsible for the final weather-like sonic situation, an array of passive sonic objects also reverberated and distributed sonic content in all sorts of directions. These passive sonic objects were largely the glass structure, walls, and plexiglass panels. These elements’ behaviours were, to a certain extent, easy to intuit and design accordingly; but there were plenty of other passive sonic objects, like the furniture, the fishpond, and above all, the plants. The complexity of the sonic situation necessitated a working process of trial and error, intuitively mixing sonic materials and doing most of the compositional work on site.

In order to blend our sonic layer with the pre-existing sonic structures and regular daily activities of the space, we took a combined approach using a variety of recorded instruments — metallophone, organ, piano, banjo, field recordings, and synthetic sounds, carefully tuned for the space and tested through regular visits. By tuning the sounds and imitating the behaviour of pre-existing sonic elements — for instance, the surrounding wind and the pond’s water were used as ghost electronics [11] — and by echoing the local weather conditions, we created an organic soundscape that would create a natural sensation of continuity. This would avoid any kind of sonic shock when entering or leaving the space.



[1] Tonino Griffero, Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces (Routledge, 2014).


[2] John Cage, An Autobiographical Statement (Southwest Review, 1991).


[3] Juhani Pallasmaa, ‘Place and Atmosphere’, The Intelligence of Place: Topographies and Poetics, ed. Jeff Malpas (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014).


[4] Gernot Böhme, ‘Atmospheres: New Perspectives for Architecture and Design’, Architecture and Atmosphere, ed. Philip Tidwell (Tapio Wirkkala-Rut Bryk Foundation, 2014).


[5] Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).


[6] James Atlee, ‘Introduction: How to Explain?’, Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between (Tucson, AZ: Nazraeli Press, 2003), p. 40.


[7] Raquel Thomas, ‘Architectural and urban atmospheres: shaping the way we walk in town’, COST 358 Pedestrians’ Quality Needs, Final Report, Part C: Executive Summary, Walk21, (2010) 54–68.


[8] Brandon LaBelle, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (New York, Bloomsbury, 2006).

[9] Jean-Paul Thibaud, ‘Installing an Atmosphere’, Architecture and Atmosphere, ed. Philip Tidwell (Tapio Wirkkala-Rut Bryk Foundation, 2014).


[10] Jean-François Augoyard and Henry Torgue, eds, Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).


[11] Harold Whipple, ‘Beasts and Butterflies: Morton Subotnick's Ghost Scores’, The Musical Quarterly, 69:3, (1983) 425–441.


[12] Denis Smalley, ‘Spectro-morphology and Structuring Processes’, The Language of Electroacoustic Music (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1986), p. 693.


[13] Max Neuhaus, Max Neuhaus: Inscription, sound works. Vol. 1 (Cantz Verlag, 1994).



Aural Weather

Aural weather is a bifold concept. On the one hand, it points toward a different way of organising sounds, placing them in space instead of time and fostering a more landscape-like listening experience, in which audience agency affects the temporal dimension of the sounds. On the other hand, aural weather is also related to the theory of atmospheres [1] and the modes of creation and perception this theory foment.



The tradition of thinking music as weather can be traced back to John Cage, who stated that he ‘was to move from structure to process, from music as an object having parts, to music without beginning, middle, or end, music as weather’. [2] Using the metaphor of weather and its implied organising principle offers an alternative to space-based sound composition strategies that rely either on long sustained notes or loops, as we will see in the ‘Sounds in Time, Sounds in Space’ section of this exposition. This form of organising sonic content often involves generative techniques; in IN SITU: Sonic Greenhouse, actual real-time weather data, retrieved from the online OpenWeather service, controlled two granular engines and their source audio material. Wind speed, temperature, pressure, and humidity data were mapped both to macro-scale events such as sound selection and mixing and to microsound-level operations like grain density and spectrum.


Besides its structural detachment from time, aural weather also creates conceptual links with atmospheric practices in architecture and design that foment peripheral perception and light gestalt [3]. These practitioners of architectural atmospheres claim that objects and spaces have an ecstatic nature [4], that is, objects radiate outwards contributing to the atmosphere of the space more than they draw attention towards their inner structural features. We believe that sound is the most atmospheric building material. Sound affects our bodily relations to places through sonic content’s capacity to affect and generate emotional responses. For instance, sound can stabilise or agitate the perceived atmosphere of a place. Sound can affect the perceived size of a space or can affect our walking speed. Sound is a powerful tool to disperse the sense of purposeful walking action, oriented space, or any other spatio-temporal structure. Yi-Fu Tuan believes that a person’s awareness of time and space can be negated by music [5]. While working on Sonic Greenhouse, we realised that we were working with the atmosphere of the space by adding our sonic layer, affecting the way people would relate to the place. In other words, we started working with the 'place as state of mind'. [6] We tested how changing the aural weather affected the way people behaved in the place, observing how atmospheres play an important role affecting how we walk in town. [7]


A change of music-making paradigm is needed to configure the conditions for environmentally and architecturally active music. [8] A shift from placing sounds in time to placing sounds in space; from building discourse to installing atmospheres. Situated atmospheres are the perfect framework to explore horizontal connections between built, sensory, and social forms. Working with situated atmospheres requires learning to perceive the world in an unfocused way. According to Jean-Paul Thibaud, the installation of atmospheres over already existing ones requires mastering the ‘art of accompaniment’, the ‘art of impregnation’, and the ‘art of tonalisation’. [9]

Sounds in Time,
Sounds in Space


For Sonic Greenhouse, we built an array of active and passive sonic objects to enable us to work as aural architects, creating sonic weather that placed sounds in space rather than in time. In that sense, our aim was to compose aural architectural atmospheres, fostering peripheral perception. [3] The piece sonically illuminated the architecture with active and passive sonic objects. The active sonic objects were the sound-emitting glass of the windows, the plexiglass panels, and the speaker cones inside the glass pots; the passive objects were the glass pots that filtered the sounds emitted from the speaker cones, the plexiglass panels that created a more complex network of acoustic reflections and spatio-morphologies, [12] and the reverberation of the room.

Max Neuhaus proposed that musical creation is not about placing sounds in time but rather in space. [13] This positions the visitor as the agent, who is able to enact and control the time dimension. The idea that music might not always be a time-based art opens up a wide set of artistic possibilities and interdisciplinary dialogues.



Composers such as La Monte Young and Phil Niblock, who are known for alternative approaches to time in their sound works, often rely upon using long sustained sounds or loops. Another approach, such as that found in the work of Eliane Radigue, is to set slowly evolving sound fields. In Sonic Greenhouse, we propose the creation of a more complex sonic environment that surpasses the perception of sonic discourse as a narrative in time, instead opting for non-linear narratives closer to what might be understood as weather, echoing the words of John Cage. [2] When listening to this sonic weather and its spatial distribution, time becomes a secondary dimension.


Full map plan

Vertical and
Horizontal Panels