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Sonorous Cities: Towards a Sonic Urbanism

Project description

Time to listen to your city

How can the city be understood differently through engaging with sound? To answer this question, the EU-funded SONCITIES project gathers sound theorists and artists, urban sociologists, architects and designers to develop a new framework of sonic urbanism that can address the neglect of sound in architecture and urban design. The first step will be to conduct ethnographic research with urban residents and communities to learn how people experience and shape urban soundscapes. The next step is to form a mobile urban sound laboratory that will travel to different cities to collaborate with local architects and designers in generating new sonic modes of urban analysis. Finally, the project will develop new sonic modes of urban design in the context of design weeks, public exhibits and creative interventions in cities.


Architecture and urban design, disciplines heavily rooted in visual epistemologies, have long neglected sound, or else treated it in very limited ways: as a physical quantity that can be modelled and controlled; or else as noise, something to be reduced or eliminated. The neglect of sound on the part of the built environment professions has been damaging for cities, which suffer from poor acoustic design. As cities come under increasing scrutiny in a rapidly urbanising world, it is time to turn attention to one of the most pervasive—yet most neglected—aspects of urban life: how cities sound; how the experience of urban soundscapes is differentiated along social and cultural lines; and how to harness the creative potential of sound to build healthier, more inclusive, more sustainable cities. SONCITIES will bring together sound theorists, urban sociologists, architects, urban designers and sound artists to develop the conceptual framework of sonic urbanism: a new acoustic paradigm for cities. First, we will conduct unprecedented ethnographic research with urban residents and communities, aiming to discover how people experience and shape urban soundscapes in their everyday lives. On this basis we will form a mobile urban sound laboratory to generate new sonic modes of urban analysis in dialogue with built environment practitioners internationally. Finally, we will develop new sonic modes of urban design in the context of Design Weeks, public exhibitions, and creative sonic interventions in cities: projects that will serve as prototypes for sonic urbanism. SONCITIES is led by a sound theorist and sound art practitioner at Oxford University with a proven record of collaboration with architects and urbanists. Through SONCITIES, sound will be placed at the forefront of creative practice in architecture and urban design, and sonic urbanism will emerge as an innovative theoretical paradigm that fundamentally transforms how cities are understood, designed and experienced.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 825,00
Wellington square university offices
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

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South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Oxfordshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)