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29. Soundscape

DescriptionThis study defines 'soundscape' as the overall sonic environment of an area, ranging in size from a room to a region. Research into environmental aesthetics has largely concentrated on the visual and neglected the other senses. Acoustic science has been concerned largely with the study of noise. This paper seeks to redress the balance by a case study of 'soundscape'.
MethodologyThe 'soundscape' of an urban neighbourhood (South Fairfield, Victoria, BC. Canada) was examined both objectively and subjectively: objectively by machine recording and analysis, and by expert listening; and subjectively by a self-reported, postal survey of residents using a 'community sound list' developed from the objective study. A cluster analysis of the objective study revealed three distinct soundscapes. Subjective analysis was also mapped and compared with the spatial framework of the objective analysis.
  • Traffic noise was the most common sound which occasionally masked keynote sounds and was usually negatively perceived.
  • Natural sounds were most preferred.
  • 'Informational' sounds were also appreciated.
  • Urban residents appear to have low levels of awareness of soundscape.
PublishedJournal of Architectural and Planning Research, 2(3): 169-8.
AuthorsPorteous, J.D. and Mastin, J.F.
PublisherElsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc.,
Keywordssound studies; acoustic science; environmental aesthetics; soundscape; multi-sensory perception; environmental preference.

This paper reviews the limited amount of work in this field and discusses the problems of methodology in relating objective and subjective results. It provides a useful critical review of techniques. It emphasises the qualitative nature of sound.

(see also Rendel's (1977) work on Tranquil Area Mapping).

Rendel. S. (1997). A New Technique. Landscape Design, 257: 17-18.