The trend of architectural minimalism as luxury means that many public establishments exceed a healthy decibel limit. Think restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and stores. After decades of investing in high-maintenance soft surfaces, proprietor preferences have now put efficiency and disposability over acoustic integrity, and favor metal furniture, exposed ceilings, and open spaces.
To fool us, the claim they are recapturing mid-century modern styles: the last era when American exceptionalism went mostly unquestioned. Yet despite the advertisement, high ceilings and no cloth are actually NOT midcentury style:
“Trends that today’s diners associate with luxury, such as hard surfaces and open kitchens, were, in mid-century, mainly relegated to lowbrow spaces such as cafes, cafeterias, and diners. The finest eateries…were the most highly ornamented and plush. Even high-modernist interiors made extensive use of soft goods, including cloth tablecloths, heavy drapes, carpeted floors, and upholstered seating. Across the board, mid-century restaurants had low ceilings, often with acoustic ceiling tiles.”
Not only are loud restaurants cheaper to build and maintain, but they also encourage diners to spend more.
So, what is trendy is also noisy. So what? So, this admiration of din contributes to the erosion of civil society. Noise pollution desensitizes us to coarseness in the other senses as well. There may or may not be any studies to back this claim up, but I believe that the more obnoxious the public space, the more likely violence is to follow. This is why people in bars and nightclubs feel free to get drunk, break bottles, punch faces, and grind on the dance floor: the loud DJ!
What’s next? Streakers at Chipotle?
If you are or plan to be a business owner, I implore you to invest in noise reduction strategies. Or at the very least, use music that will subdue the masses.