Inside an industrial brick building in Sydney’s Redfern, Karen Abernethy Architects in collaboration with Louisa Macleod have designed a space for yogis that is both immersive and reflective.
Yoga is the physical, mental and spiritual practice that connects body, mind and breath and directs attention inwards. Humming Puppy Sydney is a new yoga studio that employs visual and acoustic cues to, like yoga, nurture a transformative journey to a space within. Using space, light and sound, Karen Abernethy Architects in collab-oration with Louisa Macleod and Humming Puppy co-founders Jackie Alexander and Chris Koch have created an immersive yoga experience.
Humming Puppy Sydney opened in early 2016, following its Melbourne predecessor, and is set across two upper floors of a three-storey industrial brick building in Redfern. At street level, the studio’s anonymous, graffiti-covered door gives no indication of the carefully choreographed and comfortable spaces behind it, each designed to highlight the fabric of the existing building while also having a calming and grounding effect.
Stairs ascend to the first level where a vast mirror reflects the textures and structure of the original walls and ceiling and brings awareness to the physical space. Black joinery units – the only two elements that touch the brick shell – guide circulation into the retreat-like bathrooms where tiled walls sympathetically reference the subtle changes of colour in the brickwork. Large mirrors enhance the sense of space and reflect the light in front of two large windows.
Indeed, light – whether reflected, refracted or absorbed – plays an elemental role in the design and experience of Humming Puppy, and an ever-shifting light effect in the reception area mediates the seclusion of the bathrooms and the sanctuary of the lounge. A tilted translucent glass screen covered with a 3M Dichroic filter partitions the staff office and becomes a colourful and reflective backdrop behind the reception. The filter bends and bounces light into a kaleidoscope of orange, yellow, green, purple or blue, while the angle reflects the ceiling beams and joists and heightens the sense of space.
Extending from the reception, the sun-filled lounge has a single white door that marks the start of the journey inwards. If the first level of Humming Puppy directs attention to the space outside the body, then the second level – the shala – brings awareness to the space within it.
Darkened stairs and a reverberating hum lead to the shala and the dissolution of light and intensity of sound herald and support the transition into a more internal space – physically, mentally and spiritually. Designed for the practice of yoga, the shala eliminates all external stimuli, leaving a dark void-like room heated to twenty-seven degrees Celsius and humming with a finely tuned frequency.
The darkness is inspired by the notion of the sublime and imagery of a starry night and it aids the internal practice of yoga, quietening the mind and relaxing the breath. The deep, resonating hum is a combination of two frequencies intended to deepen the yoga experience. Researched by Alexander and Koch and composed by Mitchell Allen of One Two Studios, the hum blends 7.83hz, which is the Schumann Resonance and the main frequency of the earth, and 40hz, which is associated with Gamma brainwave activity. The first frequency helps ground the practice, while the second assists achieving peak performance, and through submersion and entrainment they can help produce matching frequencies that enhance focus and attention.
There are still glimpses of the original brick walls in the shala but the floors have been laid with tiers and acoustic infrastructure that facilitate the immersive and highly tailored yoga experience.
Like the practice of yoga, Humming Puppy Sydney takes yogis on a transformative journey from external stimulation to internal awareness; from extroverted energy to introverted attention; indeed, from the world outside to the space within.