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One of the quietest places on Earth is in Minneapolis

And also one of the loudest. Join the That's So Minnesota podcast in considering the impact of sound on our lives.
Credit: KARE 11

MINNEAPOLIS — Listen to the podcast here : AppleSpotifyStitcher 

A studio that has hosted Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and Prince is in Minneapolis. To anyone familiar with the local music scene, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. But did you know that one of the quietest places on the planet is also located in Minneapolis?

Steve Orfield founded Orfield Laboratories in 1971, and immediately set to the task of learning everything about open office design. He looked to designers in Europe to learn how to weave together elements of lighting, architecture and sound design. In total he used 25 different elements of design to perfect an open-concept office.

Then in the 1980s, recession hit. Orfield asserts that architecture as a business “dies” during a recession, so his labs shifted to sound design.

Orfield Labs worked with clients like Harley Davidson, The Armory, and the Metrodome to design an optimal listening experience.

In the ‘90s Orfield Labs had the opportunity to purchase the building that now houses Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis. 

Music fans may know the history of Sound 80, and its impact on the Minneapolis music scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Musicians like Bob Dylan and Prince recorded albums there.

Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra recording at Sound 80 Studio, 1978. Photograph is from the Bruce Goldstein photography Collection at the Gale Family Library, Minnesota Historical Society.

A piece of history you may not know is that when Sound 80 was built in 1970, 3M was part of the design process, allowing the studio to be the world's first multi-track digital recording studio and earning them a Guinness World Record, awarded in 2005.

Orfield Labs has another world record, but this one is for something a full 180 degrees away from rock ‘n’ roll. Their anechoic chamber is one of the quietest places on earth. In 2012, Orfield set the record for the World’s Quietest Place, with a record of -13 dBA.

But more interesting to Orfield than the records or the rock stars is the work his labs have done with dementia patients and those with autism. Designing calming buildings that improve lives is what’s satisfying to Orfield.

Using what Orfield coined “monastery design,” the buildings are designed to be very calm and neutral. One building that found great success with this design is the Fraser Clinic's Woodbury campus. 

After a lifetime of learning and doing, Orfield Labs is preparing to move on to its next project. Sound 80 Studios was recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places, and is forming a nonprofit to support the work. 

Listen to our conversation with founder Steve Orfield on the podcast here:   AppleSpotifyStitcher |

There's a place in Minneapolis that is making a lot of noise, but you still might not have heard of them: Orfield Laboratories. Join host Diane Sandberg in a conversation with the founder of the labs still making [sound]waves with two World Records and a n...

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