THIS BUILDING
HAS AN INTRINSIC
PROBLEM


THIS BUILDING
HAS AN INTRINSIC
PROBLEM


THIS BUILDING
HAS AN INTRINSIC
PROBLEM


Daniel Isern. Architect


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An anodyne office building from the 1970s with not enough free height between the floor structures but at the same time higher than the current law allows, constructed above railway arches which subjected it to an insufferably high level of vibration.

Ugly, too high, and at the same time, too low, and above all, unbearably noisy… what else can you ask for?
Keywords: Architecture, Acoustic insulation, Interiorism
Project Partner


Danosa is a company specialized in integral solutions for sustainable construction and improvement of habitability.
Credits

Project by
Asensio Comunicació Visual

A creative agency based in Barcelona available for work worldwide. We specialise in brand strategy, concept development, content marketing and visual storytelling in transmedia projects.
Together with Daniel Isern, Head of Isern Associats for over 8 years, we talk about his disruptive approach to architecture.

Daniel Isern studied architecture at the UPC (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya) and The University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), and obtained a Post-Graduate degree in Rehabilitation at the UPC.

He’s been a full time architect since 1999 (Yes! that was last century!) He has developed most of his professional career as Head Architect/Director of Projects at Alonso Balaguer y arquitectos asociados, combining this with his own projects.

In 2011 he opened his own office, Isern Associats, which currently employs 5 full- and part-time architects, providing architectural services for Hotel, Residential and Leisure Projects.
Daniel Isern Insight
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List of conversation topics
Daniel
Ohla Eixample
The problem
Sound
Future
Read Interview
Me
I’m Daniel Isern. I’m an architect. We have a small studio in Barcelona called Isern Associats, mainly dedicated to hotel projects.
My work
There are two key aspects to our type of work. One: we have to be very practical; the hotel has to run like clockwork, without basic maintenance problems, without mistakes that affect the practical side. The second aspect is that we must hand over a product that’s completely finished. The day the hotel opens, when the architect has finished, the first client enters, so everything has to be in place.
Ohla Eixample
When we began with the Ohla Eixample project we decided to add something to the facade that was a bit out of the ordinary, and more than just the material itself. But, what material to use? Would would the facade look like? We were also very conscious that we were creating a building in an urban setting, that would interact with all kinds of elements in the vicinity. For this reason we decided against a modern material, like glass or aluminium, that would have a different aging time to everything else close by. But we didn’t want a very classical material either, because that’s not our style. So we started working with ceramic tiles. And this added value we wanted to give to the material, came through music. By playing a piece of music, we generated a pattern, which was etched onto the tiles. It wasn’t that the music influenced our work, but that it allowed us to generate an infinite number of different drawings that we could transfer onto the surface of the tiles.
The problem
Music is sound, sound comes from vibrations. Speaking of which, the building had an intrinsic problem, that was difficult to solve. When it was built in 1973, the building sat right above the underground tunnel. At that time, trains passed every half hour, now they pass every three minutes. This causes a vibration in the building that’s totally unsustainable/unacceptable. When we measured sounds levels the vibrations gave us a reading of over 75 decibels which is way above the permitted level for buildings that people live in.
The solution
So we have this building that’s perfectly located, just one street from Rambla de Catalunya, one street from the Diagonal, in the centre of Barcelona. But at the same time, it’s completely unusable as a hotel. What do we do? We consulted specialists in structures and acoustics and came up with a solution that would be attempted for only the second time in Europe, and the first in Spain. The plan was to prop up the entire building with shores, cut through all the supporting pillars, and place earthquake shock-absorbers at the base of these pillars.
How does the sound work?
All noise is the product of a vibration. When working on a hotel project, you need to be aware that comfort means not hearing noise. You shouldn’t hear noise between the bedrooms, or between meeting rooms. Communal spaces shouldn’t echo if you want them to be restful. You need to have a high level of acoustic absorption, so that the noise doesn’t bounce around, and you also need to ensure the noise doesn’t pass through the walls, to guarantee privacy.
The Source
But you have to understand noise at its source. Where does it come from? The human ear can hear a sound spectrum that ranges from 20 to 20,000 hertz. The frequency of sounds we normally hear is around 1000 hertz. When you’re deciding which soundproofing to use, the material may work very well for 1000 to 2000 hertz. But you have to know what your noise base is, because if the soundproofing you’re laying, doesn’t work for your maximum noise peak, it’s useless. So it’s the architect’s job, to understand the source of the noise. And it’s the architect’s job to look for the best solution for that noise. This is where manufacturers like Danosa should be able to lend you a hand.
What do you expect from the near future?
I would ask Danosa, to create products for each type of noise (band) that architects have to deal with. It should be very simple to say, “I’ve got a problem with a high pitched noise, so I need to use this type of soundproofing.'' Or ''I’ve got this very low-pitched noise, I’ll use this other type of material.” It’s true that we have to find solutions for broad noise bands. It’s true that if a facade faces a street we’ll have to address the problem of traffic, as well as ambulance sirens, and people talking on the street. But it’s also true that in most cases, we’ll have a predominant noise peak, so have to be able to solve that peak.
...and from Danosa?
I would ask a manufacturer like Danosa, to be able to provide a specific solution, for a specific type of noise.
Contact
Estudi Isern Associats
www.isern.pro
Bio
Daniel Isern. Estudi Isern Associats

Daniel Isern studied architecture at the UPC (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya) and The University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), and obtained a Post-Graduate degree in Rehabilitation at the UPC.

He’s been a full time architect since 1999 (Yes! that was last century!) He has developed most of his professional career as Head Architect/Director of Projects at Alonso Balaguer y arquitectos asociados, combining this with his own projects.

In 2011 he opened his own office, Isern Associats, which currently employs 5 full- and part-time architects, providing architectural services for Hotel, Residential and Leisure Projects.
About Architecture Dialogues
The project is centred on a series of video interviews with renowned architects and experts from the building trade. In these interviews, experienced and emerging professionals talk about innovative solutions they’ve come up with to tackle real construction challenges they’ve faced. We hope this shared experience will inspire communication and collaboration between all players in the trade with a view to building a more sustainable future.
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