The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #4

Good vibrations – a sensorial journey into urban soundscapes and acoustic design

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

(Disclosure: Links on this page to “View on Amazon” are Affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.)

  • 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 is known in the music field as LOTO – YouTube Channel, Spotify
  • Human ears have three times more neural connections to the brain than the eyes (20-20’000HZ) read about the “Sensitivity of Human Ear,”
  • 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]
  • “The whole world as we know it today is the manifestation of vibrational frequencies, all of it, on every scale”
    • Theory of Strings and Origin of the universe [More info], Superstring Theory (Imagine NASA Website)
    • Cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the ESA Planck Telescope [More info]
    • The discipline of Cymatcis – how matter is held together by vibrations and sounds [More info] – Hans Jenny and the science of sound cymatics [Interesting article] [YouTube Video] and Ernst Chladni, the father of acoustics on vibrations [More info]
  • Early inspirations: Anne Holtrop (Studio Anne Holtrop), Riccardo Blumer (Blumer & Friends), Bijoy Jain (Studio Mumbai)
  • The Soundscape Movement in the 1960s and some fundamental reading
    • R. Murray Schafer (1993) The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World [View on Amazon]
    • Books by Rachel Carson (latest editions):
  • Common Sound dB levels – here’s a nice summary of different volume levels as well as basics of Psychoacoustics and Wellbeing
  • Tacoma Bridge – a famous example of resonance going wrong in engineering [watch the collapse on YouTube]
  • Sofia’s paper on oculocentric society (publishing soon): Geophonies, Biophonies and Technophonies
  • 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]
    • Merica H, Blois R. Relationship between the time courses of power in the frequency bands of human sleep EEG. Neurophysiol Clin. 1997;27:116–128. [Link] – Key frequencies associated with REM sleep and meditative states in humans range between theta (4–8 Hz), beta (16–32 Hz), and gamma (>32 Hz) brain waves. The harmonics of these frequencies are also considered beneficial.
    • Jeong, M.J., Shim, C.K., Lee, J.O., Kwon, H.B., Kim, Y.H., Lee, S.K., Byun, M.O. and Park, S.C., 2008. Plant gene responses to frequency-specific sound signals. Molecular breeding21, pp.217-226. [Open Access Link] – Frequencies that modify germination and growth rates, levels of polyamines, regulation of antioxidant enzymes, uptake of oxygen, mRNA gene expression.
  • Hit The Beat (2020) – Technophonist Design
  • Temenos (2019) – Empathy Design
    • Project Page on Sofia’s Homepage
    • [Read more] about the Ganzfeld Effect
    • Empathy as “body resonance”: Groos, Karl (1902) Der aesthetische Genuss, (in German)
    • Empathy and neuroarchitecture: Harry Francis Mallgrave (2011) The Architect’s Brain: Neuroscience, Creativity and Architecture 1st Edition [View on Amazon]
    • Madworkshop Foundation Webpage
  • 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 – Dialogo nel Buio, Milano [More info]
  • Chromesthesia – the phenomenon of hearing colour
  • Alvar Aalto’s Work: Il paradiso dell’architetto, in Idee di architettura. Scritti scelti 1921-1968, Bologna, Zanichelli, 1987
  • Cohabitation or Co-existence Philosophy – check out Episode 2 and its shownotes for a lengthy discussion on Cohabitation
    • Sofia’s book of choice on Cohabitation: Rosi Braidotti, “Co-existence” in Krogh, M. ed., 2020. Connectedness: An incomplete encyclopedia of the Anthropocene . Strandberg Publishing. [View on Amazon]
  • Sofia’s Inspiration:
    • Famous Artists: Marina Abramović, Tomás Saraceno, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor etc.
    • The exhibition that touched Sofia: Intuition, Palazzo Fortuny, Venezia 2017 by Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti [Watch on YouTube]
    • Literature: countless books on philosophy, poetry and science, as well as some authors of novels such as Italo Cavino and Alessandro Baricco. The stories of these writers describe the world with the same wonder that belongs to children, with a touch of absurdity that transforms reality into something extraordinary.
  • Lyrics for Pneuma by Loto a.k.a. Sofia Boarino

Outer space within myself,
planet Earth is looking diverse,
as a pearl of shining air,
I get lost in its spell.

Inhaling I feel
unknown oceans and fields
and the whole world I perceive;

through my lungs I expand
outside my inner land,

What is the sound of everything?
Of every human
and every plant and tree
and every rock and everything?

What is the sound?
What is the sound?

Connect with Sofia Boarino