Tag Archive: urban design

The sound of the city

Olga Yurkina, Worldcrunch, writes about how “some local governments [in Switzerland] are turning to sound specialists to make cityscapes easier on the ears.”  Yurkina introduces us to Fabian Neuhaus, an acoustician who runs a firm that specializes in sound architecture. While his company mainly works on upgrading the sound quality of industrial spaces and concert halls, Neuhaus believes that outdoor spaces “need to be properly ‘tuned’ to produce pleasant sounds.” “Unfortunately,” he adds, “it’s rarely a priority in an urban project.”

But not any more. Far-sighted public officials in two Swiss cantons are beginning to seriously consider acoustic features in urban design. To that end, the cantons have engaged Neuhaus’ firm to offer guidelines for “a well-designed soundscape along local roads.” “Instead of fighting against noise pollution afterward, we should include the acoustic dimension in the project from the very beginning,” asserts Neuhaus.

Urban planners are also thinking about the design of outdoor urban spaces and what can be done to make them more interseting and aurally pleasant. For example, Trong Maag, an urban planner in Zürich, notes that large uniform facades of glass and steel are “real torture for our ears,” while a gravel or sand path will offer “a soothing rustle,” trees can act as a sound barrier, and a green wall can absorb high-pitched sounds.  And other designers have come up with interesting options, like anti-noise modular screens “with flexible acoustic correction” or singing fountains. Designer Andres Bosshard hopes that at some future time “acoustics will be an integral part of urban design and we will create something with sound rather than just block noises.” After all, he adds, “[w]e have to keep in mind that in a city, sound is central to our sense of well-being.”

Click the link above to read this fascinating article in its entirety.

Link via Antonella Radicchi.

Paris is celebrating World Car-Free Day today

by banning traffic from half the city, as are a host of other cities, including Brussels, Bogotá, Philadelphia, and Detroit, but not London to The Guardian’s dismay.   Various cities around the world have pledged to close off some streets to car traffic on or around World Car-Free Day, which is September 22nd of each year.  According to The Guardian, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo “promoted the first Journée Sans Voiture a year ago, in response to a rise in air pollution that briefly made the French capital the most polluted city in the world.”  While the mayor was focused on the effect of a car-free environment on air pollution, sound measurements were also taken and show a significant drop in noise pollution:

Airparif, an independent air pollution monitor, said that on Paris’s first car-free day – which covered around a third of the city – nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by up to 40% in some parts. Bruitparif, which measures noise, said sound levels fell by half in the centre.

Imagine being in a city that is half as loud as it would typically be.  Sounds like bliss, no?  Sadly, cities have been butchered to accommodate the car, a mostly unnecessary tool if there is appropriate public transportation and cab service available–not to mention Uber et al.  One hopes that World Car-Free Day takes off and soon becomes World Car-Free Week, followed, one hopes, by the embrace of urban design that puts humans before cars.