When sound collides with a surface, it interacts with and responds to the material and formal conditions of that surface. These interactions, however subtle they may be, are conveyed to the listener when sounds reflects from the boundaries of our environment and arrives at our ears. All materials reflect or absorb sounds in their own particular manner.

Materials designed specifically to absorb sound may be found in a wide variety of everyday environments – classrooms, subway stations, lobbies, airports, museums, courtrooms, auditoriums, offices, factories and swimming pools. Sound-absorbing materials are used to reduce noise, to improve speech communication, to enhance the living experience of music and control reverberation.

Often the acoustic design and engineering of these environments goes unnoticed. It is only when sound absorbing materials are absent, when spaces become raucous and speech becomes unintelligible, that our aural experience is foregrounded.

Here are some highlights from Porous, one of the four case-study sections in Sound Materials: A Compendium of Sound Absorbing Materials for Architecture and Design.

Photos (cover image included) by Freund GmbH


Weissglut is a restaurant specializing in burgers and steaks using only organic, sustainable and fresh ingredients. The interior is decorated with suspended moss balls (50 cm and 30 cm diameter) and a matching 17-sq-m moss wall, manufactured by Freund, that provides sound absorption and reflects the green and sustainable ethos of the restaurant.


Photo by i29 Interior Architects


Tribal DDB is a digital marketing agency whose Amsterdam offices support a staff of approximately 80 people. The office design demanded a floor plan that was open and flexible, yet would allow for focused work and privacy. Balanced acoustics were critical in achieving this and the design team was attracted to felt not only as a sound absorber, but also for its durability, flame resistance and sustainability.

Felt is clad on a variety of surfaces, furniture and even pendent lampshades throughout the offices. As an alternative to a suspended ceiling, the felt is strategically used to cover the underlying building structure, which was scarred from past demolitions and remodels.


Photo by Lorenzo Vitturi


Sony teamed with Barber & Osgerby to design their first standalone exhibition at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, which showcased the latest Sony conceptual developments integrating electronics within furniture and interior spaces. The exhibition was titled Contemplating Monolithic Design, exploring the essential elements necessary for products to create a sense of presence in a space.

The exhibition space was subdivided into five areas, organising the experiments into archetypes: icon, insight, intimate, integrate and install. The darkened anechoic space invited visitors to enter a laboratory-type chamber with a heightened sense of hearing and seeing. Near-field speakers were integrated into seat headrests to create intimate entertainment spaces; a TV cabinet was built from a 3D printer with a porosity that allowed sound to transmit from speakers concealed inside the cabinet. Also, a series of lights and sculptural objects utilised transducers to transform them into sources of sound.


Photo by Attilio Maranzano


The Milan venue of the Fondazione Prada, conceived by OMA, expands the repertoire of spatial typologies in which art can be exhibited and shared with the public. Characterised by an articulated architectural configuration, which combines seven existing buildings with three new structures (Podium, Cinema and Torre), the venue is the result of the transformation of a distillery dating back to the 1910s.

Historic and new architecture, although separate, confront each other in a state of permanent interaction. The Podium building, designed to host temporary exhibitions, is clad on both the exterior façade and interior walls and ceilings with architectural aluminium foam. The Podium’s aluminium texture complements the adjoining Haunted House, covered in gold leaf. 

Sound Materials is the first publication of its kind to catalogue over 100 sound-absorbing materials with full-colour images paired with inspiring real-world applications. You can purchase a copy in our web store, here.