The Sounds of Cities: Three Aural Vignettes

Monocle's The Urbanist podcast explores urban acoustic ecology to unveil the sonic signature of the coronavirus pandemic, the Greek island of Corfu, and Vienna streetscapes.

August 25, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


City Sounds

Free To Use Sounds / Unsplash

Close your eyes and listen to a city street. 

Depending on the setting, you may hear a lush acoustic environment or the everpresent lulling hum of resting infrastructure. Each city soundscape is a unique, capricious aural footprint.

A recent episode of Monocle's The Urbanist podcast looks at soundscapes in the built environment, exploring what there is to learn from the sounds of cities.

John Levack Drever, professor of acoustic ecology and sound art at Goldsmiths, University of London, is interested in drawing insight from city soundscapes and understanding the effects of urban sound on living beings both inside and outside of cities. Drever considers acoustic ecology and the study of soundscapes to be more holistic than the study of acoustics, allowing for a more qualitative understanding of sounds and sound-makers.  

"Disciplines like acoustics are very focused on sound pressure levels and issues of noise. Acoustic ecology is interested in the quality of sounds, what they mean, all the sounds in a space, and also the hearers—all the people who are listening and sound-making," explains Drever.

Listen to the podcast to hear a series of recordings from the same location in London's Beauchamp Place from 1928 as well as before and after the coronavirus lockdown. Also featured are sounds from Erimitis on the Greek island of Corfu, "a 500 acre biodiverse spot of land with its own sound identity," and Vienna's shifting soundscape.


Thursday, August 20, 2020 in Monocle/The Urbanist

Chicago Commute

Planning for Congestion Relief

The third and final installment of Planetizen's examination of the role of the planning profession in both perpetuating and solving traffic congestion.

May 12, 2022 - James Brasuell

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

Complete Street Vancouver

Study: Most of Vancouver Is a ‘15-Minute City’

A large majority of Vancouver residents can access a grocery store in 15 minutes or less by bicycle or on foot.

May 20 - Vancouver Sun

Montreal, Quebec

Urban Design, Transport, and Health

The Lancet medical journal published a series of articles that explore how to evaluate and guide urban planning decisions to create healthy and sustainable cities. Live long and prosper!

May 20 - The Lancet - Urban Design, Transport, and Health

MoGo Bikeshare Bikes

Detroit Bike Share Celebrates Five Years

In its five years of operation, Detroit’s MoGo bikeshare has added electric and adaptive bikes to its fleet of more than 600 bikes.

May 20 - MoGo

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.