Soundfile 2: Inside a Loyalist courtyard.
This “out of place” feeling perceived by strangers is created in part by the suspicious gaze of neighbors as well as by visual identity symbols, such as religious flags, wall paintings, and flag-like printed urban fabrics. Moreover, peace walls resonate loudly when the wind blows over them. In fact, this is often the predominant sound that identifies border areas. In summary, even though the sonic environment is calm, it is always ready to react and continually reveals a tense ambience. City sounds are far away, rarely emerging throughout the buildings. Therefore, this quiet environment hides a full range of features that need to be further explored (Schön 1979).
The theoretical framework of the present research straddles sonic studies and urban planning. In order to orientate the inquiry toward Belfast’s sonic environment, the investigation into audible everyday practices (Di Croce 2016) is enriched by an acknowledgment of public-space dynamics (Augoyard 1979). Thus, the relationship between urban morphology and sonic perception is revealed through a distinctive and conflicting soundscape (LaBelle 2010). In fact, specific sonic cues could be attributed to specific stakeholders, that is, to specific users of the public space (Baläy 2004); the sonic environment is certainly a place where everyday practices are continually revealed.
Moreover, by listening to everyday sounds, it is possible to inquire into public space uses and abuses (de Certeau 1990), conflicts and resolutions, as well as acoustic characteristics, peculiar sonic identities, and cultural heritages. All these elements are crucial for the investigation of a specific context, especially with regards to understanding segregated areas. The sonic environment of Belfast’s most segregated areas is studied here as a “bridge” to investigating anthropic traces (Dewey 1938), symptoms suggesting urban issues to be further examined (Thibaud 2003). This is particularly interesting when the inaccessibility displayed by the urban form prevents an accurate investigation of the urban environment.