Soundscapes reflect the city’s identity and the richness of urban life, having a strong effect on people’s experiences. The modern city is overflowing with sonic data, produced by various sources, resulting in a disturbing urban environment due to noise pollution especially in tourist-heavy areas. Following a survey of the Edinburgh soundscape and its influence on tourist behaviour along the Royal Mile, we faced the problem of how architecture can offer the whole society to become engaged in and influence the production of the city’s soundscape. In response, our project investigates ways to represent sound architecturally with reference to the extensive research of Iannis Xenakis.
Using an Arduino device, developed specifically for this purpose, data for sound intensity and angle of rotation was collected, as a person moves through the city and their attention shift to the various sound events. Based on the analysis of the data collected, sites with high disturbance in acoustic quality were identified, leading us to explore ways of transforming those sites as musical instruments. This resulted in a network of string instruments along the Royal Mile with different acoustic qualities, each producing its own music and contributing to the city polytope. The installation could be triggered by anyone and anything – wind, rain, animals, and people’s touch produce pressure, resulting in the production of sound, which acknowledge individual inputs. The directionality of sound produces result in different perception of space and the sound at different locations, as speakers are suspended from the strings. The urban interventions proposed are light, almost immaterial architecture of stings in tension. Each proposal is contextualised, as the geometry activates the architecture specific to the location by emphasising distinctive architectural elements as anchor points.
As the participants interact with the design, the noise from the surroundings is recorded, modified and played back, creating a new narrative of the city and new spatial experience. The degree of sound modification can be altered and tuned to the participants liking. For example, one string may change the frequency of the sound, whilst another may change the pitch or the amplitude. This in turn allows for a level of interaction and engagement between the participants.
The proposal is designed to be able to adapt to any site and be given any function according to the specific location. By inhabiting the closes of the city, we use their architecture as the hollow body, in which sound reverberates, producing an immersive sound experience. In this way the close is reinvented as an urban musical instrument.