Acoustics, though often overlooked, remain crucial to the success of a well-designed interior space. Kvadrat Acoustics aim at providing seamless acoustic solutions that do not hinder creativity in design or compromise on quality. Getting a closer look at this innovative and perhaps the most flexible acoustic system ever are Emily Wong of Bluehaus Group and Aleksandra Nastic of Woods Bagot…
With technology and engineering making huge strides, architectural structures and, consequently, interiors are unafraid to take unusual forms and angles. As a result, to remain in the game, brands providing technical services in construction have to stay in a constant state of advancement. One such brand is Kvadrat, a leader in acoustic solutions, who is relentless in providing quality technical support to bolster these creative endeavours.
“Acoustics are like silent luxury”, says Gitte Nyhus Holm, Regional Director Middle East & Africa, Kvadrat. “Incompetent or absent acoustics are like an unbalanced colour scheme or a lighting arrangement where the Kelvin is too cold in a space. It affects us, but we don’t realise what’s amiss.”
Soft Cells from Kvadrat Acoustics are prefabricated acoustic panels that incorporate acoustic padding behind a tensioned textile layer. Employed in projects like 25 Hours Hotel by Woods Bagot and House of Wisdom, Sharjah by Foster + Partners, the product and the R&D team at Kvadrat Acoustics work tirelessly to ensure that the end result is not only well-finished and functionally sound but also aesthetically superior.
The Review Crew
From left to right: Emily Wong, Senior Associate, Bluehaus Group; Aleksandra Nastic, Senior Associate, Woods Bagot
Multiple Pain Points, One Multifaceted Solution
A product can have top-tier functionality and cutting-edge quality, yet it could not work out for a project with atypical requirements. In such a case, the only way forward is for the manufacturer and designer to get together and devise a modified solution. With Soft Cells, Kvadrat Acoustic takes this a notch further, and provides unparalleled customer support.
“Kvadrat has production plants in Poland, China, USA and KSA . These strategic locations help us deliver our tailor-made solutions with minimal transport and carbon footprint. Even so, in some cases, the existing solutions are not enough, and our specialised R&D team travels to troubleshoot the hurdles, and certain services are best done in specific locations. For example, if a project requires printed panels, to ensure the quality is uncompromised, we send it to Denmark, which is close to Poland. All the megaprojects where it’s not a rectangular panel – they are concave or convex – we prefer to do it in Poland because of the strong capabilities of the team there,” informs Sehar Hassan, Regional Manager, Kvadrat Acoustics.
Aleksandra: What you can do with the product is limitless. It’s a high-performance acoustic system, and acoustics are so important in a space. In the 25 Hours Hotel, particularly, we had a double volume space, and we had the vision to have a great big artwork on the ceiling. Kvadrat not only delivered perfectly but also added greatly to the guest experience. I come into the lobby, and I don’t have an issue with the noise, and I don’t need to shout; I can speak comfortably.
Soft Cells’ competence is not restricted to only an after-installation experience but also during installation. The forward-thinking team at Kvadrat Acoustics has come up with considerations for when acoustics become an afterthought, which is ever so often. “We have lots of open workspaces these days, and the beauty of the Soft Cells system is that even if we don’t consider it in the beginning, we can always add it at the end because the system has a clean, simple suspension mechanism. In case you want to do it over the workstations or meeting room – we also have an alternative magnetic system”, educates Sehar.
Emily: Even the way that is put together in terms of flexibility, you could shift it quite easily. So, if you have a wall that you have to use and you want to move it to a different wall, you don’t actually need to have a lot of tools. You don’t need to break it down or anything. In terms of the system – there’s flexibility. You can opt for a seamless experience.
Constantly pushing for the better – Variety, Longevity and Sustainability
Coming up with a tensioning mechanism that keeps the fabric taut over the frame for a long time, Kvadrat Acoustics makes sure maintenance is a piece of cake later on. For bigger projects, there have been times when Kvadrat Acoustics has not just provided panels, but also the underlying substructure.
“Designing a substructure, which happens in Copenhagen, means that we know exactly where our panel will come and needs to be, what kind of shadow gaps it will create – which makes installation easier. It also helps us with our commitment to sustainability because then we are minimising wastage and rework. We are also big on regeneration and reusing, and we don’t come up with solutions that cannot be reused. Recently, we upgraded the specifications of the aluminium we use from 40% recyclable to 84% recyclable. Even with the other parts, we can reuse the magnets and the latch systems. The latch system also allows easy access to MEP ducts in the ceiling frame since the panels open up with just a push. We can promise clients a lifespan of 250 years, but even if they want to shift location and rebrand – we offer simply changing the fabric and retaining the same system”, specifies Sehar.
Soft Cells’ is an extended family of modifications, which comes in different configurations to tackle varied acoustic challenges in a space – each dedicated to finding solutions for the trickiest projects.
Aleksandra: The shape of the fabric – it doesn’t solve it. It stays in pristine condition for a while, bringing out the product’s quality. It’s good to know in the beginning that you can start with such a creative vision and you can be free of a certain limit in the choice of the textile, or choice of the panels or mechanisms.
Emily: If you have the project that goes for LEED, this is a no-brainer. You don’t need to do any homework on that. It is already certified – that’s also one of the main reasons why this was selected in one of the projects that we did in Bahrain. It ticks all the boxes – it’s like going for gold.
With Kvadrat Acoustics’ R&D team constantly on the lookout for improving their products, and the brand on the prowl for projects that push their boundaries, Soft Cells is not just a safe bet but a product that raises the bar for its contemporaries.
“All the panels are handmade to make sure the spring is at the right place and not stressing the fabric at the wrong point and the weave not losing its strength. Usually, we can guarantee superior aesthetics because it’s internal specifications and technicalities that we keep innovating. Even if a certain, specific fabric has to be used, Kvadrat Acoustics can test it out for the clients – we are always ready to innovate and provide the right solutions”, avers Gitte.