September 2012 saw the arrival of the BE OPEN Sound Portal in Trafalgar Square as part of the tenth anniversary of the London Design Festival 2012. Situated within one of London’s most iconic public spaces, the BE OPEN Sound Portal was an entirely new kind of installation that focuses on the design that you can’t see – that of acoustics and sound – rather than visual spectacle.
An alien black, rubberised structure was home to finely-tuned audio technologies aimed at delivering pure acoustic experiences to visitors in the middle of Trafalgar Square – one of the busiest and aurally chaotic environments in London.
Every day, the BE OPEN Sound Portal hosted one of five leading musicians and sound artists, each of whom had been specially commissioned to create a unique soundscape: a range of vibrant sonic and musical responses, from the dramatic sounds of the natural world, such as glaciers breaking up, to exquisitely detailed electronic music. Cocooned from the external noise and bustle of the city, the BE OPEN Sound Portal allowed visitors to experience a very different environment, one created by sound alone.
BE OPEN was set up to explore ways in which excellence in creative thinking can produce real social innovation, encouraging new work at the frontiers of design. One of the things that attracted BE OPEN to this project is that it was effectively an ambitious mobile laboratory for exploring the boundaries of what can be achieved with sound technology – an active demonstration of design’s transformational abilities.
The BE OPEN Sound Portal was designed by Arup, world leaders in the area of acoustic engineering, with content commissioned by contemporary music organisation Sound and Music.