A one-of-a-kind listening experiment that sought to understand how a building’s soundscape changes and affects our sense of wellbeing.
This project explored the impact that vertical architecture has on our sonic experience of the city, and the psychogeography of rest in London’s changing built environment in collaboration with researcher Bradley Garrett and sound artist Aino Tytti. We sought to find the point where the more familiar sounds of the city fade away, and investigate how the city sounds at the top of a building. With less traffic and city noise, is the top of a building a restful space? What happens when we re-introduce these sounds? Who has access to quiet spaces in the city and what are the implications for the future of restful verticality in London?
Over the course of the night, we turned our attention to the changing vertical skyline. London’s lavishly ornamented and embellished infrastructural heights were once the pride of the city and a potent symbol of its industrial prowess and are now being dismantled and disfigured. The new infrastructures that are taking their place occupy space as both advertisements for and the engines of political and economic power.
London also used to also take great pride in its social heights – places like The Monument, St Pauls Cathedral, the Barbican and the hundreds of housing blocks provided scenic metropolitan vistas to those lacking profligate wages. Those blocks, like our industrial heights, are now being torn asunder or reclad for a new urban elite. A new city is rising that now resembles, without a hint of irony, JG Ballard’s dystopian novel High Rise. Our field site, Denning Point, a high-rise residential building with 23 storeys, was at the epicentre of these tumultuous verticalities.
Listening to the City at Rest was structured around a listening experiment. Participants heard the sounds of the city at different levels of the building – initially at street level, and then at a number of points on the journey upward. At the rooftop, we ported the sound of street level up 23 floors, temporarily collapsing the vertical geography of the city through sound. During the journey to the top, guests listened to live readings exploring the fundamental role sound plays in our built environment and the sonic, social and psychological implications of our stretching city in the context of rest. The journey culminated in a rooftop discussion, and a beautiful sunset over the quiet horizon.
This event was carried out during Guerilla Science’s residency in the Wellcome Hub as part of the Hubbub Group, investigating rest and its opposites.
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