Sound Environment as an Element of Urban Analysis for Public Spaces

By Carolina Quintero and Mercedes Ferrer.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 6, 2015 $US5.00

In order to understand a city’s complexity, as characterized by the continuous spatiotemporal interaction and coexistence between the physical and sociocultural environment, different theoretical approaches may be considered. Among these, there are morphological, functional, and semiological methodologies. These emphasize visual aspects while obviating that multisensorial perception of space is a crucial element in the human experience and apprehension of urban daily life. This paper argues that sight and hearing may be considered the dominant senses: sight isolates, focuses and transforms the perceiver into a spectator, while hearing wraps and provides living meaning, as well as direction, to the understanding of public space. Thus, this articles’s aim is the introduction of a methodology of urban analysis that includes the sound environment as a key element in the configuration of urban spaces. Several methods using film and aural recordings will be explored in order to analyze sound effects which associate the spatial, cultural, and social milieus. As case study, the urban public space, street, and square of a residential area in the city of Maracaibo (Venezuela) will be considered. Although these urban and public settings belong to a morphological/morphogenetic unit, they act as scenarios for multiple ephemeral events that produce sounds with individual characteristics that differ depending on the performed activity. For example, the speed of traffic and human contact may generate diverse feelings of intimacy, loneliness and insecurity instead of those of shelter, safety and pleasure. Understood in this manner, public space is the setting of interaction between sociocultural and built environments. The sound environment supports such interaction without spatial limits because a temporal dimension is incorporated as one of the variables. Finally, the paper recommends that one consider the aural environment not simply as a disturbing element that must be avoided or mitigated but, instead, as an opportunity to highlight and consider its unavoidable presence in urban planning and design. Above all, it must be a chance to underscore those sounds that include elements of identity and aesthetic appreciation, which in turn define the legibility of urban space.

Keywords: Sound Environment, Public Space, Urban Analysis

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.29-43. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 6, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.057MB)).

Prof. Carolina Quintero

Research Teacher, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Department of Theory and Practice of Architecture and Design, University of Zulia, Maracaibo, Zulia, Venezuela

Dr. Mercedes Ferrer

Research Teacher, Research Institute of the Faculty, Faculty of Architecture and Design, University of Zulia, Maracaibo, Zulia, Venezuela