In “Sounding Sacred,” a new exhibit at the Yale School of Architecture, three-dimensional cross sections of architectural models of religious buildings from four faiths serve as a focal point.

The exhibit incorporates themes of religion, architecture and sound. Curated by M. Isabel Balda ARC ’19, Davis Butner ARC ’19 and Evan Sale ARC ’19, the exhibit opened on Feb. 21 in Yale School of Architecture’s North Gallery, a space that has been devoted to student-curated shows over the last two years. With an emphasis on analyzing acoustics related to architectural design, the exhibit seeks to help visitors understand the role of sound in designing spaces of both religion-specific and universal reverence.

Sale emphasized that architects are often not well versed in acoustic consulting despite the crucial interplay between a space’s design and its acoustic properties. Through the exhibit, he hopes to build a bridge between the visual and aural elements of a space.

“Architects mostly recognize the role of sound in their experience of a space, but they don’t know how to use it,” Sale said.

Visitors can listen to recordings of music performed in each sacred space with headsets hanging adjacent to the models. A timeline and short history documenting the evolution of different types of sacred spaces are on display as well. In the back of the exhibit, moving projections show how sound is dispersed through each of the four spaces.

Butner added that the exhibit is a “hot spot” for discussing the increasing influence of sound as “a driving force in the design of religious spaces.”

“That leads to the question of whether or how sound influenced the changing of form [of a building],” Sale said. “If the building evolved a certain way, was it because of the sonic attribute [its creators] were pursuing, or whether the sonic rituals changed in response to the architecture?”

Butner, a third-year architecture student, said that he first conceived the idea for this exhibit last year, drawing from his background as a violinist and violist and his interest in acoustics.

He noted that one of the exhibit’s goals is to promote more discussion and dialogue about the meaning of sound and faith in architecture.

“Light plays just as fundamental a role and expands similarly in a space to sound in many ways,” Butner said. “And we’re hoping by choosing these four different religious typologies we can represent them in the same way but have guests draw their own conclusions.”

The interactive nature of the exhibit allows guests to draw their own conclusions about the relationship between religion, architecture and sound by comparing “various iterations of that same type of space on the wall,” according to Butner.

Created by Yale School of Drama Research Fellow in Projection Design Camilla Tassi, the projections on the wall add another dimension to the already multifaceted exhibit. Tassi, in conjunction with the exhibit’s curators, created projections that animate sound in the exhibit’s four spaces using a computer program called ODEON, which shows how sound expands in a room.

“Through listening to the music that you would hear in those spaces through the models of the sound in those spaces, we visualized the sound bouncing off the materials and surfaces in those buildings,” said Tassi. “The animation shows different cross sections and 3D views of how sound moves in those spaces.”

The exhibit also involves a lecture titled “Re:Sounding the Sacred” by Kyle Dugdale GRD ’15, a professor at the School of Architecture, and Damian Doria, a School of Drama professor who specializes in acoustics. In addition, a tour of New Haven’s sacred spaces will take place on the exhibit’s final day, featuring musicians from the Yale Schola Cantorum.

Tassi, who also sings with the Yale Schola Cantorum, expressed her optimism towards the project and its interdisciplinary approach.

“I think one of the best ways to make meaningful work happen is to include people of various skill sets and from different schools, and I was very happy to see that,” said Tassi. “I am hopeful that this is sort of the direction that academia in the future is going to go. We need to support each other and ask different questions.”

The exhibit will remain open until March 30.

Phoebe Liu |

Phoebe Liu was a Public Editor for the Managing Board of 2023 and Managing Editor for the Managing Board of 2022. She previously covered the School of Music as a staff reporter. Phoebe graduated from Trumbull College with a degree in Statistics & Data Science and was an Education Studies Scholar and Yale Journalism Scholar.