Artistic acoustic barrier installed in East London

A first-of-its-kind barrier to cut noise pollution on a busy main road in London which the designers say turns a civil engineering project “into a memorable public artwork.”

The installation, on the A12 at Bromley-by-Bow, is almost thirty metres in length, and reaches a peak height of three metres. The designers say it draws inspiration from the nearby waterways, with the artwork’s geometry one of folded surfaces and flowing lines. “The folds add stiffness, texture, and interest, and this is further enhanced by the reflective material, which picks up fluctuations in light over the course of the day and accentuates the relatively low relief of the sculpture. Surface anodising provides soft and subtle colour,” they say.

Unlike most acoustic barriers which reduce noise by using soft or textured surfaces to absorb vibrations, the ‘Silk Metal’ system used in this installation uses an aluminium sheet perforated with tiny holes less than a millimetre in diameter to form the front face of a closed box. As sound waves hit the sheet it starts to vibrate, forcing air trapped in the box through the perforations: the resulting friction slows the passage of air, which in turn reduces the vibration of the sheet, and echoing and reverberating sound.

This is the first external use of this kind of acoustic baffle in the UK, and brings this innovation to the public realm to enhance the area for people walking and cycling in the area.

The barrier is formed from over 60 of these sealed cassettes, all of which absorb noise generated by the road through friction, ultimately dissipating this sound energy as heat.

The design and construction team was led by architects Beep Studio, in collaboration with Expedition Engineering, Cake Industries, Echo Barrier, and Power & Line. The project delivery was managed by housing association, Poplar HARCA, and funded by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Transport for London.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said, “This innovative barrier should serve as a comfort to residents passing through the area who suffer from excessive noise emanating from the A12. We have listened to residents who have complained about the level of noise pollution and if the scheme is successful it could be rolled out elsewhere in Tower Hamlets.”

Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management, added, “Our road network plays a vital role in keeping people and goods moving across the capital, but we know that noise from motor vehicles can have a major impact on people moving through the area. Our investment in this innovative new noise barrier will make the area a quieter and much more pleasant environment for people walking and cycling along the A12 in Bromley-by-Bow.”

(Picture – Edmund Sumner)

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