Graphical Research Tools for Acoustic Design Training: Capturing Perception in Architectural Settings

Graphical Research Tools for Acoustic Design Training: Capturing Perception in Architectural Settings

Alessia Milo (Queen Mary University of London, UK), Nick Bryan-Kinns (Queen Mary University of London, UK) and Joshua D. Reiss (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3637-6.ch017

Abstract

This chapter presents an overview of 3 graphical tools supporting soundscape assessment in different settings, indoors and outdoors. These research prototypes support the spatial organization of the perceptual information available to the participants and are designed based on surveying techniques used in architectural training to create a foundation for acoustic design education in architecture schools. This chapter reports the contexts of the focus groups investigations, presenting advantages and drawbacks related to their use. It has been found that participants often added explanatory verbal data and arrows to the provided diagrams. The diagrams and their use have been interpreted with the support of the qualitative data captured along the studies through thematic analysis. Finally, paper prototypes are useful for educational approaches, but future more comprehensive studies will require integrating these tools in existing or yet-to-be-designed systematic frameworks for soundscape analysis and design.
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Background

Dependency of Soundscape Assessment From User Activities

It is good practice to design architectural spaces to maximize user comfort during activities expected to take place there. This general attention is supported by guidelines on “well-designed places” (UK GOV, 2014), or studies stressing out the impact on places on health (Frumkin, 2003). The interaction with natural environments can improve cognitive functioning (Berman, Jonides, and Kaplan, 2008), and the physiological role of soundscapes on this restorative potential (Medvedev, Sheperd, & Hautus, 2015) recently started being explored.

When inhabiting spaces, humans do not always intentionally listen to the entirety of the surrounding soundscape, for example filtering out some sounds to focus attention on specific tasks (Ghozi et al., 2015). Foale (2014) researched this topic by asking participants to keep a sound diary, creating a summary of their listening activities, according to their everyday schedule.

Attention can be selective and affect the perceived quality of a soundscape. Meng and Kang (2013) found that those waiting for somebody in a shopping mall perceived the environment as louder than those shopping, walking or passing by, and judged their acoustic comfort as lower. They also found a similar influence of human behaviors on the judgement of sound-related outdoor activities (Meng & Kang, 2016).

Hong and Jeon (2015) defined the relative weight of seven factors on the users’ judgements of four different areas (commercial, residential, business, recreational). Judgements depended on the different importance attributed for each case to sound sources (human, natural, traffic), to the harmony of the environment, pleasantness, eventfulness and visual quality.

‘Harmony of the environment’ can influence the perceived quality of a soundscape. Xiao and Aletta (2016) specified that for a library user, this concept of being appropriate for the environment may differ from the overall quality, and depends on the activities performed by the user, such as the intention to interact and communicate, read and think, or be adaptive.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Acoustic Horizon: According to Schafer, it represents the spatial limit over which sounds cannot be perceived anymore.

Egocentric: The sensory spatial information captured and processed by the subject in reference to the subject self or ego .

Acoustic Space: According to Schafer, it represents the volume of space in which a certain sound can be heard.

Declarative Knowledge: Term used by Biggs to define the understanding of content at various levels prior to the application and reinterpretation for further purposes.

Situated Soundscape Cognition: Situated cognition is a theory emphasizing that knowledge is constructed within and linked to the activity, context, and culture in which it was learned, whilst the general term of situated refers to an activity that critically acknowledges the role and weight of the place in which it is carried out. In this case, the term addresses the reflective process of focusing on features of the site, whilst focusing on its characteristic soundscape, composed by either the sonic events and the characteristic acoustics for a specific listening point in the location.

Allocentric: The sensory spatial information captured and processed by the subject using other objects in the scene but not the subject self or ego as a reference.

Top View: A bi-dimensional way to represent tridimensional spatial information in orthogonal projections, as if the represented object was seen from above with the focal point at infinity.

Functioning Knowledge: Term used by Biggs to define the active use of knowledge gained by the student being applied “in function” during other tasks.

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