A soundscape remodelled

Urban square Nauener Platz in Berlin was recently remodelled and reconstructed by urban planners and acousticians in order to improve its ambiance – with special regard to its sonic properties. One of the outcomes of this project is a middle-sized noise barrier (gabion wall) reducing the crossroads’ traffic noise on the playground by 3 dB.

Nauener Platz playground with noise barrierNauener Platz playground with noise barrier (gabion wall)

Following a distinct ›soundscape approach‹, acoustician Prof. Dr. Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp and her colleagues at Technische Universität Berlin not only took measurements and calculated noise contour maps. They also conducted ›soundwalks‹ and even invited local residents to participate in the planning process. In the end, local residents required more pleasant sounds at Nauener Platz.

Sound devices installed on Nauener Platz

In respondance, several ›audio islands‹ were installed: today’s visitors of Nauener Platz are supposed to sit down on ›ear benches‹ with integrated speakers to listen to ocean surf or birdsong (sound devices by Barbara Willecke, sound files by Konstantin Dudel). The sound files (replayed in mp3 format at 128 kbit/s) are intended to mask the noise from the crossroad, thus creating a pleasant listening experience for the visitors of the playground.

However, the sounds from the ear benches rather merge with the traffic noise now, thus creating a strange mix of sounds which were formerly antithetic: a soothing ocean surf meets the ebb and flow of the traffic. Additionally, in the following field recording from Nauener Platz you hear children letting off their last fireworks (soon after New Year’s Day), thus performing their own noisy interventions within a re-modeled soundscape.

For her work at Nauener Platz, Prof. Dr. Schulte-Fortkamp was granted the European Soundscape Award in November 2012.

For more field recordings from Nauener Platz listen here. For additional information on the project, see some presentation slides by Schulte-Fortkamp or read her article at the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America – or read Michael Piwonski’s master thesis evaluating the project (in German).

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