Lonely Planet Writer

You can finally experience total silence in NYC thanks to an isolated chamber in the Guggenheim

Silence is golden but a peaceful oasis away from the hectic city-scape of Manhattan is usually hard to come by. That is, unless you stop by artist Doug Wheeler’s newly-created room in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Visitors sit in pure silence inside the chamber.
Visitors sit in pure silence inside the chamber. Image by David Heald/Guggenheim

Wheeler, an Arizona native, designed the chamber to mimic the visual and acoustic effect of being immersed in complete silence – much like the feeling of being alone in the deserts he travelled through in the 1960s and ‘70s. The exhibit, titled Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III, has transformed an existing room in the museum’s Tower Level 7 into a space custom-designed to suppress almost all levels of known sound and evoke the feeling of infinite space.

To achieve the near-perfect silence and create an almost ‘out-of-body’ experience, the museum and the artist worked with acoustic experts Raj Patel and Joseph Digerness of the design firm Arup.

The vast white room, which has curved walls and floors lined with sharp pyramid structures, is almost entirely free from echoes. Visitors to the chamber sit on top of an elevated platform, looking down on the spikes that line the floor. These pointed three-dimensional shapes help muffle the sound and provide a backdrop for the soft glow of light that permeates the room.

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