Pedagogical projects pursuing soundscape design and aural awareness are wide-ranging, including educating about the importance of design intervention across disciplines (Cain 2011); encouraging sound-inclusive curricula in schools of architecture (Sheridan 2006); integrating acoustic design in campus planning (Xiaoyun 2004); creating haptic soundscape mappings (Lawrence 2009); and undertaking soundwalking as listening activity (Dietze 2000). This pedagogical project was developed to introduce students to the concept of soundscape design as a form of activism that can change the everyday experiences of urban dwellers. It was conducted in the 2012 cross-university elective Soundscape Studies in SIAL Sound Studios at RMIT University, Melbourne.
This paper will discuss the introductory exercise and theories that were provided to the students and the interventions they created in response to the exhaust outlet. The soundscape studies elective is an outgrowth of the Acoustic Ecology movement founded by Murray Schafer in the early 1970’s and given the name: the World Soundscape Project (WSP). Two of the central themes of the WSP were to “educate students and field workers about acoustic ecology” (Torigoe 1982: 15) and to promote the idea that all people should be actively engaged in soundscape design: “The aim […] is to get whole populations to listen more carefully and critically, as I believe they once did, and to learn the extent to which they can control their own acoustic environments” (Schafer 1993: 113).
The soundscape studies elective was further informed by the work of CRESSON, which takes a structural approach to urban soundscape design. CRESSON, under the leadership of Jean-Francois Augoyard, lists 82 “sound effects,” which “focus on the effects of sound on listeners” and are “designed to analyze the experience of everyday sounds in the contexts of architectural and urban spaces” (Augoyard and Torgue 2005: xiii). Additionally, the students were introduced to Bjorn Hellström’s soundscape design interventions (Hellström, Sjösten, Hultqvist, Dyrssen, and Mossenmark 2011; Hellström 2012), which were strongly influenced by CRESSON’s approach (Hellström 2003). As discussed below, the differing approaches to urban soundscape design by the acoustic ecology movement and CRESSON were highlighted to the students.
Students were asked to consider both approaches in their response to the interventions. Their relationship with the city was revitalized through active listening, structural applications, and artistic responses rather than the passive listening that characterizes everyday urban soundscape relationships (Bull 2000: 143; Truax 2001: 23). Besides discussing the interventions, the paper also identifies how the outcomes of the interventions could be applied to future design projects that encourage the public to enhance creative relationships with their city.