August 14, 2016

Soundscapes and Lightscapes of the Urban Night. Berlin/Florence

The Master project Soundscapes and Lightscapes of the Urban Night. Berlin/Florence was developed in the Fall Semester  2016/2017 by the students from the Technical University of Berlin in the frame of the program: Masterprojekt Stadt- und Regionalplanung.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Henckel (Technical University of Berlin), Dr. Arch. Antonella Radicchi (Technical University of Berlin).
Students: Elena Abt, Hanna Buntz, Jeffrey del Castillo, Rocío Gravino, Anna Loffing, Tim Lukas Lübben, Luisa Multer, Johannes Sichter, Luca Steffhan, Federico Trípoli, Christiane Wichtmann.

The project was awarded the TU Berlin Quality of the Students’ Work (2nd placement).
Download the certificate here.
Download the final report here.
Download the posters here.

Abstract. Light- and soundscapes are integral parts of city life, but they are not properly considered in urban planning – much less the interplay of both phenomena. The negative impacts of noise and light pollution on the environment, public health, fauna, flora, scientific work and the culture of a society put pressure on cities to develop strategies how to deal with these complex issues. The master´s project “Light- and soundscapes of the urban night: Berlin – Florence” discusses the question which role light and sound play in policies, urban planning and the urban life in Berlin and Florence – two cities, which have relatively far developed concepts for both topics, though they follow different strategic approaches and different dynamics are at work.
Thus, one key issue is the analysis of policies and governance dynamics on different scales (European Union, Germany/Italy, Berlin/Florence). The project analyzes which actors are central for the governance of urban light- and soundscapes, how the (power) relations between them are structured and how citizens participate in the process. Furthermore, it investigates how the political decision-making processes work, which the underlying understandings of light, sound and noise are and which the main narratives within the discourse are. Finally, it explains the impact of these public policies on the fabric of the cities of Berlin and Florence.
The second key issue is the perception of light and sound by the people in two study areas: the Kottbusser Tor neighborhood in Berlin and the Santa Croce neighborhood in the historic center of Florence. The focus lies on the questions what feelings different sounds and lights trigger, how they influence human behavior and what kind of information they generate.
The project is based on a combined quantitative and qualitative approach, comparing at the same time two study areas and the two topics of light- and soundscapes. This requires the use of diverse methods like the analysis of literature and policy documents, expert interviews, surveys, light- and soundwalks, measurements, observations, sound recordings, photo and video documentation.
Light and sound have in common that certain characteristics of them are quantifiable (such as sound pressure, color temperature or light intensity). At the same time people perceive light and sound in a highly subjective way depending on various factors like acoustic/visual socialization, (dis-)abilities, age, cultural background etc. as the empirical work in Berlin and Florence proves. While conducting mapping or action planning, it is very important to keep both the quantitative and qualitative side of light and sound in mind. Though both phenomena follow this logic and have several similarities, they have a different “standing” in the public discourse: most policies focus on noise and its negative impact and neglect the relevance of soundscapes for information about the (urban) environment, the stimulation of emotion and identification with a place. In contrast, light is mostly perceived as something positive that brings security and progress, while negative aspects like light pollution are less in the focus. Bringing these perspectives together allows a more holistic understanding of the phenomena. In the common practice, light and sound/noise are dealt with separately, while this projects develops the innovative approach to bring the two fields together which creates synergies, makes it possible to learn from each other and think outside the box. The report calls for an integrated approach to consider light- and soundscapes as essential parts of urban planning, which are related to diverse fields like architecture, mobility, security, planning of urban green spaces, public health etc. It promotes the idea that relatively quiet and/or dark urban areas are commons that are important for the quality of life in a city. Comprehensive forms of citizen empowerment and citizen science that go beyond mere consultation are central aspects of any successful light- and soundscape design process. A first step would be to (re-) politicize these issues and to create mindfulness for the visual and acoustic qualities of our cities.


Exploring the Untapped Potential of Sound Maps

During the Winter term 2016/17, in the framework of a rewarding teaching cooperation with Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk in his project course “Visualizing Cultural Collections”, we experiment with new interactive ways to visualize the Firenze Sound Map collection, in an attempt to go beyond traditional tools, e.g. sound maps.
Supervisors: Dr. Marian Dörk (University of Applied Sciences Potsdam), Dr. Arch. Antonella Radicchi (Technical University of Berlin).
Students: Stéphane Flesch, Anne-Sophie Gutsche, Daniel Paschen.
Download the paper here.
Have a look at the digital platform’s prototype here.