Salesforce Transit Center

On the rooftop of this five-floor infrastructure center in San Francisco, California, a park has been implemented containing green structure and walking paths. Noise levels in the park are lower compared with the ground below. Fountains contribute with a masking sound, which is triggered by vibrations from the buses that pass on the floor below the park. The installation is called “The Bus Fountain“. Buss fountain by: Ned Kahn. Read more about the building and the project: PWP Landscape

Low Noise Screens, Helsingborg, Sweden

The urban green space Eneborgsplatsen in Helsingborg, Sweden lies adjacent to a heavy trafficked road. A traditional noise wall was not deemed suitable for the site. Instead, a set of lower walls were introduced (around 1 meter high). The low height allows better visibility and safety than a traditional noise wall, but can still reduce noise through strategic location. See further calculations in the project report (Swedish). Realisation: AFRY Efterklang, AFRY Landscape architecture and Helsingborgs city.

Fluisterende Wind (2017) – Edwin van der Heide and Marcel Cobussen

Fluisterende Wind is situated in a passage that traverses underneath a Leiden University building. It consists of a 12.5 by 2.5 meter wall relief and an eight-channel generative sound composition. The composition generates a continuum with a varying interplay of soft swooshing wind—swelling and decreasing—silence, and human speech. This sometimes gives the impression that the wind is whispering phrases and messages, even though the sounds will never turn into clearly recognisable words or sentences.

Edwin van der Heide’s homepage
Marcel Cobussen’s homepage


Contrasting soundscapes

A video illustrating the contrast between a small and quiet garden in Kyoto and a busy train station in the vicinity. The idea being that the noisy surrounding may enhance the tranquility inside the garden. This raises the importance of variation in city soundscapes.

Articulated contrast at the entrance to Murin-an

This video illustrates how a sudden drop in amplitude can be used to create an effect of tranquility. A water dyke is located outside Murin-an garden, the sound of water increase the intensity somewhat. As the visitor enters through the gate, the water sound is effectively blocked out, and the contrast makes the garden seem more tranquil. The sound from the water dyke can not be heard every day, as it is dependent on water flow.

The tuning of a Water Stream in Shin’en

The garden Shin’en is located at Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. The garden design has been ascribed to Ogawa Jihei, one of the most famous designers of the time (late 19th century). This clip illustrates how rocks were used strateigcally to direct the water to produce a rich soundscape. This technique has been known for at least 1000 years in Japan, as it was described in “The tale of Genji” from the beginning of the 11th century.

Walls and Masking in Murin-an

Noise from urban surroundings can be problematic for gardens, but the negative effects can be mitigated by walls. Garden walls do not (like noise screens can do) suggest a problem, as they are perceived as being part of the aesthetic expression. The effects is optimized if screens are combined with masking water sounds, like here in Murin-an in eastern Kyoto. A road passes just outside the garden, but owing to the combination of walls and a masking waterfall, the passing of cars is not intrusive.

Shakkei in Entsū-ji

Perhaps the most famous example of “shakkei”, borrowed scenery: Entsū-ji temple in northeast Kyoto. Mount Hiei is borrowed and incorporated to become part of the garden, skillfully framed by vegetation in the garden’s border. Shakkei extends the experiential space of the garden. The effect is not limited to visual experience, but we may found that distant sounds are given more attention owing to the interplay between scenses.

Spring in Sanbō-in

This clip illustrates the soundscape in Sanbō-in, Kyoto, as experienced on a spring day in 2018. A series of three waterfalls adds an atmospheric presence towards the left side of the stereo image. To the right, a garden worker is swooshing fallen leaves. As part of the soundscape, there are also birds singing, frogs croaking and garden visitors talking, some of these sounds are “borrowed” from the woodland outside the garden.

Frogs in Nanzen-in

Gardens and other green spaces are prone to attract wildlife. This is perhaps best experienced during spring and early summer when birds are singing, but other animals like frogs are attracted to blue green biotopes. This is a documentation of frogs playing in spring in the pond system of Nanzen-in garden, Kyoto. In Japanese, the frog is called tree frog “Mori o kaeru”. The sound recording is binaural, meaning that the spatial experience can be reproduced if headphones are used during playback.

Forced perspective

Forced perspective is used in several art forms, including film, photography and architecture. By manipulation of the relative sizes, colours etc. of objects, the experienced distance can be made to increase. Traditionally, visual cues have been given much attention, but sound can also be used. Here, a waterfall in Ginkaku-ji, recorded from two different angles to illustrate the effect. The distance to the fall is similar in both locations, but because sound is attenuated by topography from the second location, the distance may seem further than it actually is.

Forced perspective in Adachi Museum Garden

The Kikaku waterfall is drawn in as a “shakkei” in Adachi Museum Garden. The audability of the fall inside the garden is limited owing to (a) long distance (b) the true height is only about half of what it looks like and (c) edges surrounding the collecting pool reduce sound levels. The quietness of the fall could make it seem further away than it actually is, thus exemplifying how sound could be used to build a “Forced perspective”.

Nightingale floor

This video illustrates the sound of the nightingale floor, uguisubari 鴬張り, by recordings from two different sites in Kyoto: Nijo-jo caste and Tōfuku-ji temple. The floor’s characteristic melodic squeek is the result of a special construction technique involving nails and clamps that rub against each other. The singing floor boards have been likened to that of the japanese bush warbler, uguisi, the sound of which is included as a reference. Legend has it that the nightingale floor was used in the feudal era as a way to warn inhabitants from approaching enemies.

Frankfurt Airport’s Green Roof System

One of the largest airports in the world, Frankfurt, has installed an extensive system of green roofs of about 40000 m2. The intention is to improve the environment, including benefits for air quality, temperature regulation and experiential qualities including noise reduction. A study at the airport has indicated a reduction of about 5 dB as measured in conjuction with a 10cm thick roof¹. Read more: ¹Dunnett, N., and N. Kingsbury. 2004. Planting green roofs and living walls. Timber Press, Inc., Portland, Ore.

Nauener Platz, Berlin

When Nauener Platz in Berlin was rebuilt between 2006 and 2009, soundscape thinking was employed throughout the process. This resulted, among other things, in site-specific noise screens shaped as gabiones, as well as seating furniture with integrated speaker sounds. The project won the European Soundscape Award 2012. The consortium for soundscape was led by Prof. Dr. Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, Technische Universität Berlin. Read more about the project: Sonic AgentsBerlin Sonic Places and Project report.