Dr. Antonella Radicchi

Dr. Antonella Radicchi

Chartered Architect & Soundscape Urbanist

Bürgerpark Pankow, a beautiful yet noisy park in Berlin

2017 has been a challenging but very rewarding year and I would like to end it, by thanking very much all the participants in both “Beyond the Noise” and “Hush City” projects, as well as those who dedicated their time to share with me stories and secrets about their favorite quiet (and less quiet) spots in Berlin and beyond.

I would like also to thank very much the journalists, who, intrigued by the topic of noise pollution and quietness in cities, got in touch with me and published wonderful articles and posts about how these issues have been treated in the framework of both “Beyond the Noise” and “Hush City” projects. If you missed some of these articles, you can find a recap here.

The role played by journalists is fundamental in disseminating the research works done by the scientists and in helping them to reach out the public; however, it is important to monitor these publications to avoid mistakes and/or misunderstandings, which can happen, when English is used as a lingua franca, leading to unexpected events. As it is the case happened to me few months ago.

On August 5 2017, while I was in Italy to visit my family, an article about my research projects on urban quietness and the Hush City app was published in the magazine Berliner Abendbladtt and distributed in the letterboxes of the Berliners across the city. A very good promotion for the projects and the app I was totally unaware of! I assume, indeed, that the journalists read about the projects in the media coverage (e.g. Berliner Zeitung, Berliner Kourier et al.) and then decided to cover the issue on their magazine, without getting in touch with me.

The day after, on August 6 2017, I got an email from Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth, who drew my attention on this article, complaining about the content reported in it and asking for clarification. The journalists, indeed, to introduce the topic of my research on urban quietness, used the case of Bürgerpark Pankow in Berlin as an example of a quiet oasis in Berlin, whereas, in the reality, this park is one of the noisiest spot in Berlin, due to noise pollution from aircrafts to and from Tegel airport!

Furthermore, the article was accompanied with a beautiful picture of the park, which contributed to convey the idea and feeling of peacefulness and quietness, as you can see below. If interested, you can read the digital version of the article in German here.

2017.08.05 Abendblatt 1

Cover of the magazine Berliner Abendblatt, reporting the overview of the article published at p. 3 (image courtesy of Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth).

I cannot forget the mix of emotions I felt while reading the email received from Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth: sadness and anger, for the misunderstanding and the erroneous information reported in the magazine, and, on the other hand, gratitude and joy, for being informed and contacted by Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth. My reaction was immediate: I replied to the email, clarifying my point and asking for a meeting in the Bürgerpark Pankow area to have a (sound)walk around.

Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth gently agreed and, on September 26 2017, I left Kreuzberg for Pankow, where I met Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth, who generously brought me around Bürgerpark Pankow, telling me the past and present story of this gorgeous park. If curious, read the history of the park and current projects here and here (links courtesy of Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth).

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Views of Bürgerpark Pankow ( image: cc Antonella Radicchi)

In the meanwhile we were (sound)walking around this beautiful park, every 2/3 minutes, an aircraft was crossing the sky just upon our heads. The noise was so loud that we had to stop talking and wait for the aircraft passed by, before continuing our conversation. What a perfect oasis of quietness! I really could not understand why and how the journalists referred to it as the ideal heaven of quietness in Berlin. Really.

To double-check with your ears, please, click on the “sonicshot” below to listen to the soundscape. Use of headphones is, of course, recommended J

Video of an aircraft flying over Bürgerpark Pankow in Berlin on September 26 2017 around 2pm (video: cc Antonella Radicchi)

In-between one aircraft and the other, we spent one hour (sound)walking around the area, which is indeed extremely beautiful as well as alarmingly noisy. Community groups in the neighborhood are also pretty much active in their fight against Tegel airport, due to the high levels of noise pollution which not only disturbs their quality of life, but it constitutes an health hazard for all the residents. Click here to read the harmful effects of noise on human health.

2017.08.04 Cotta

Picture of a board hung up to the balcony of the buildings surrounding the Bürgerpark Pankow, reporting the motto “Give me the quiet back” (the translation from German is mine; image courtesy of Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth).

Luckily, a bad beginning does not keep you from a good ending. In my case, a misunderstanding led me to meet a very generous and interesting person, Mr. Gerhard Hochhuth, who so kindly shared with me his everyday life experience and knowledge of the area and informed me about a detrimental issue of noise pollution in an area of Berlin which I had not yet visited.

It was such a very rewarding moment that I wanted to share it with you all in my last post of 2017.

And, now, to conclude, along with my wishes for a peaceful and quiet 2018, I wish you all to not forget to “climb out of our bubbles, emerge from behind our screens, walls, loudspeakers and headphones and open ears directly to the environment” (Westerkamp, 1974).

Let’s keep on fighting for a high quality of our city soundscapes.

Happy New Ears!