The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #4

The symphony and sounds of urban design, an artistic and sensory journey

Guest: Sofia Boarino

February 14th, 2023


“I think it is quite crazy that we live in a world that is designed for deaf people when the strongest sense we have is hearing.”

In the face of an unpredictable future, we are all called upon each and every day to think of out-of-the box ways to tackle challenges to our environment, wellbeing or how to enjoy that Beethoven symphony at your noisy train station.

My guest today is Sofia Boarino, an architect and musician who also goes by the name of Loto. Sofia obtained her architectural masters degree in urban soundscapes at the Academy of Architecture Mendriso in Switzerland and has been experimenting with how sound design can create more vibrant, healthy and comfortable places while also linking humans with nature.

Today’s show is truly an assault on the senses as we explore the intricacies of urban soundscapes from the landscape, biological and human dimensions. We discuss the need for a shift from a visually dominated society to one that embraces the vibrations of sound.


Sofia Boarino is an architect, researcher and sound artist who explores the relationship between sound, space and perception. She obtained her Master’sdegree in Architecture at the AAM – USI Accademiadi Architettura in Mendrisio in 2020 with the project “Hit the Beat”, which experimented the relationship between architecture and music. Her work won the SwissEngineeringTicino Prize in 2021 and was exhibited at the Chiasso’s Cultural Center in the same year. During her studies she also attended the PUCP University in Lima as an exchange student and specialised in acoustics with Professor Carlos Jimenez. During and after university, she gained experience through multiple collaborations in France, Italy, Switzerland and America, where she worked as an architect in several architecture and art studios.

Since 2017 she has been conducting interdisciplinary research that situates in-between art and science, exploring the themes of mechanical, biological and acoustic resonance in correlation with spaces, landscapes and cities, culminating in an in-depth investigation on sound architecture and neuroarchitecture. In 2018 she patented her first architectural project “Sounds of Etna”, and in 2019 she became a fellow of the American foundation Madworkshop (L.A.), with which she realised her first project “Témenos”. In 2021 an essay on her project “Sound Greenfall – A musical courtship between plants and humans” was published in the 15th edition of the journal Horizonte Weimar, and in 2022 she lectured at the Acoustic Niche Workshop held by the Christophe Girot Chair at ETH Zurich. In the same year she worked as a sound performer at the Metareale exhibition for Fuorisalone Design Week in Milano, and was selected from a group of experts to participate in an international course on neuroarchitecture organised by the American association ANFA – The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. She currently lives and works in Zurich as an architect and sound performer and she recently became a member of X=(T=E=N) Studio. [Source:]

Resources Related to the Episode

  • As promised, the recording setup in my makeshift household studio
My makeshift recording studio
  • OP1 Synthesizer by Teenage Engineering – – check out their new OP1-field
  • Sofia’s artist and band name Loto’s YouTube Channel
    • Some basics on sounds – we perceive sound across 8 octaves, vision only 2 octaves
  • Juhani Pallasmaa – Finnish Architect
    • Pallasmaa, Juhani: The Eyes of the Skin. Architecture and the Senses. Chichester United Kingdom, Revised edition, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2005. [View on Amazon]
  • Sofia’s paper on occulentric society: Resonant Architecture and Urban Planning: sound as a gateway to enhanced perception and connectedness Study on Zurich and Los Angeles *is this available???
  • “The whole world as we know it today is the manifestation of vibrational frequencies, all of it, on every scale”
    • Theory of Strings [ref]
    • Origin of the Universe [ref]
    • First picture of the Universe, the plasma cloud… [ref] one single frequency tone [ref]
    • The discipline of scimatics? – how matter is held together by vibrations and sounds
  • early inspirations: Anne Holtrop (Atelier Anne Holtrop), Riccardo Blumer (Alias), Bijoy Jain (Studio Mumbai)
  • The Soundcape Movement in the 1960s [Link]
    • Rescue of whales [ref]
  • Common Sound dB levels – here’s a nice summary of different volume levels
  • Tacoma Bridge – a famous example of resonance going wrong in engineering [watch the collapse on YouTube]
  • Geophonic, Biophonic and Technophonic – read more about it in Sofia’s above-mentioned paper*
  • Sounds of Etna (2017) – Geophonist Design
  • Sound Greenfall (2021) – Biophonist Design
    • Project Page on Sofia’s Homepage
    • Boarino, S. (2022) Sound Greenfall, a musical courtship, Horizonte Weimar Magazine Zuhören 15 [Official Page]
    • The key frequency to modify germination and growth rates… ** – key reference?
    • Key frequency associated with REM sleep and meditate states in humans? ** key reference?
  • Hit The Beat (2020) – Technophonist Design
  • Temenos (2019) – Empathy Design
  • For those who are interested in a sensory deprivation tank experience, there’s a useful book about this and the experience
  • Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – Salt flats that are one of the most remarkable vistas on earth
  • The Blind Experience ** website??
  • Chromesthesia – the phenomenon of hearing colour
  • Alvar Alto’s Work 1957 – paradise on earth reference ***
  • Cohabitation or Co-existence Philosophy – check out Episode 2 and its shownotes for a lengthy discussion on Cohabitation
  • Sofia’s Inspiration:
    • Famous Artists: Marina Bramovich, Thomas Sarraceno, James Surell, Anish Kapour
    • The exhibition that touched Sofia: Axel Velvoord, Venice Intuition, Palazzo Fortuni
    • Literature: Locavino, Barrico novels describing world eyes of child ***
  • Lyrics for Pneuma by Loto a.k.a. Sofia Boarino

Connect with Sofia Boarino