A Musical Floor That Cures The Boredom Of Walking In Airports

Jeriël Bobbe cures the boredom of monotonous walkways.

Walking through the endless airports halls to your departure gate can bring on terminal ennui. Shouldn’t there be something more fun to do along the way besides shopping the duty-free? Design to the rescue! Jeriël Bobbe, a recent Eindhoven grad, has devised a musical floor that you play by dragging your suitcase across it.

Bobbe was inspired by something he noticed during his weekly train trips from Eindhoven to Amsterdam. "Whether they are stone slabs, tactile paving for the blind, or a grid for wheelchairs, there is music in everything," the Dutch designer writes. So he decided to formalize the music-making, by creating pieces of ribbed wood that can be arranged like musical notes. The distance between the grooves corresponds to pitch, while the depth of the ruts determines volume.

Before debuting the Me-lo-dy at Dutch Design Week last October, Bobbe experimented with various patterns—engineering the pieces so that one suitcase wheel generated the tune, the other wheel the rhythm—as well as different materials. "I made an aluminum stone that sounds more like hard-rock music," he tells Co.Design. In the end, he opted for the warm tones of American walnut and for modular pavers that can be arranged any which way: "If you want, you can play the American anthem with your trolley suitcase when you are landed on J.F.K."

There are no immediate plans to install the Me-lo-dy in an airport, although Bobbe says that Amsterdam’s Schiphol has expressed interest, and the designer has fielded many calls of interest from companies wishing to produce the design for commercial purposes. "These tiles add some life to the cold, sterile spaces at airports," Bobbe writes. "Me-lo-dy is a serious competitor for the moving walkways: Will the travelers choose the easy way, or the melodious way?"

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  • Cmrstar430

    Doesn't sound like music at all. It sounds exactly the same as when you take a suitcase across a metal grated floor. Needs to be tweaked.

  • Jeremy C

    In fact, every single 'sound tile' is calculated in relation to each other. The hight of the tone A: is the speed that you walk, 4,5 km/h (2,45 Mph) calculated by 440 hz, the vibrations of the A. And so on. So it's not only the sound that you hear, it's really the waves of the sound that you can see. If you walk faster or slower, you will hear the sound of the song, but then higher and faster or lower and more slow.

    Besides of that, you can change the volume by make variaties of the literal hight of the waves. By making them lower, the volume is low and the sound is really subtile.

    On the movie you hear a random melody, but the tiles are based of the beginning of 'Fur Elise' wich is: E-D#-E-D#-E-B-D-C-A. But as menchioned in the article, it is reproduceble, so compose everything you want. Your suitcase is your instrument.

  • Jake Wells

      exactly, If I can find where I'm going without stressing about it, I'll be whistling my own tune!

  • Jasmine

    This is very nice! A little peace of music composed by the
    different spaces between the ribs! The wood gives a nice instrumental sound.
    In a hurry you walk through a long hall and at one point your making

  • Nothanks

    Music - I call this noise. Think about 100 people doing that in all different directions. Then the bad TSA communicate will finally have a reason, but thats another topic. 

  • VincentG

    Jake Wells gave me an idea, in hospitals you have the color coded lines, maybe the rumble strips can call out the concourse and gate IDs so that you know you are on the right path?

  • VincentG

    In 2009 Honda did a commercial, they built a rumble strip on the road in Lancaster, CA that plays tell the William Tell Overture when you drive over it. Eventually due to complaints by the locals it was removed. In 2007 in Japan a scenic road through some mountains, as a tourist attraction, plays various music as you drive over it. A bigger success was the musical stairs in a subway in Odenplan, Sweden. I think what made it more successful was that it was only set up long enough before it became annoying.

  • Ryan S.

    Doesn't anyone ever conduct an online search to whether something has been done before or not? I'm all for refining an existing great idea but at the very least give credit where credit is due. I'm sure the designer had the same insight as the artists who created "Asphaltophone" the world's first "musical road" in 1995. But he, or Fast Company, should have done their homework.

  • Pascal Lola

    Nice attempt. Not bad. The concept needs to be expanded a little more. More meaning and value is needed. Something more.

  • Jake Wells

    This is ridiculous, I didn't know there was a boredom epidemic in airports. I thought the epidemic was !stress! due to poor communication and navigation through terminals. How about we fix those problems before we make musical floors!

  • Christopher Chau

    You get the same "music" by dragging over cobblestones. Where is the design?

    Second thought, they have this deployed on US highways already