Acoustic Design in Urban Development : analysis of urban soundscapes and acoustic ecology research in New York City

University essay from Högskolan Dalarna / Akademin Språk och medier

Abstract: The world is urbanizing rapidly with more than half of the global population now living in cities. Improving urban environments for the well-being of the increasing number of urban citizens is becoming one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. Even though it is common that city planners have visions of a ’good urban milieu’, those visions are concerning visual aesthetics or practical matters. The qualitative perspective of sound, such as sonic diversity and acoustic ecology are neglected aspects in architectural design. Urban planners and politicians are therefore largely unaware of the importance of sounds for the intrinsic quality of a place. Whenever environmental acoustics is on the agenda, the topic is noise abatement or noise legislation – a quantitative attenuation of sounds. Some architects may involve acoustical aspects in their work but sound design or acoustic design has yet to develop to a distinct discipline and be incorporated in urban planning.My aim was to investigate to what extent the urban soundscape is likely to improve if modern architectural techniques merge with principles of acoustics. This is an important, yet unexplored, research area. My study explores and analyses the acoustical aspects in urban development and includes interviews with practitioners in the field of urban acoustics, situated in New York City. My conclusion is that to achieve a better understanding of the human living conditions in mega-cities, there is a need to include sonic components into the holistic sense of urban development.

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