15. Feb 2016

Galactic atmosphere surrounded by other-worldly sounds

Photos: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

If you hold a seashell to your ear, they say you can hear the soft sounds of the waves and the sea. This was the idea the architects from Studio KCA presented when they were commissioned to develop the concept for the Orbit Pavilion for NASA, a structure that provides visitors with the opportunity to listen to the sound of satellites orbiting the earth. The symphony of sounds conveys the sounds and trajectories of 19 NASA satellites that currently orbit and monitor the earth. During the daytime light penetrates the apparently twirling space through slits and openings in the outer skin of the pavilion. After dark, coloured lighting effects and sudden clouds of fog, coupled with odd sounds, make for an alien atmosphere reminiscent of scenes from the TV series The X-files. The pavilion is currently housed at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


The spiral cuts in the surface of the aluminium panels that form the conch-shaped structure are intended to depict the orbital paths of the satellites. The curved aluminium panels are highlighted by spotlights and LED panels the designers assembled in their studio. As a result, the structure acts like a giant scoop and the pavilion radiates light outwards from within. Twenty-four loudspeakers are carefully positioned to generate the three-dimensional sound collage.

Everything revolves around the viewer, like planet earth: surrounded by orbiting satellites and lighting effects, and swathed in fog.

Project team:

Creative strategy/client: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Dan Goods und David Delgado
Architects: Studio KCA – Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang
Sound composition: Arup – Shane Myrbeck
Structural engineering: Silman – Ryan Miller


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