Antonella Radicchi

Antonella Radicchi

Architect and Urbanist, PhD

Soundwalking in Barcelona

The December newsletter features in greater detail the Hush City Soundwalk held in Barcelona on September 27th within the Global Program of Hush City Soundwalks for Sound Walk Sunday 2019.

We are grateful to the guest authors: Marc Freixes, Gerard Ginovart-Panisello and Dr. Rosa Maria Alsina-Pagès for their fantastic contribution.

Happy reading!

The Hush City Soundwalk held in Barcelona, Spain, was hosted by the local partner Dr. Rosa Maria Alsina-Pagès (La Salle University) and was led by Dr. Antonella Radicchi (TU Berlin) with a group of 15 local participants in the neighborhood Poblenou.

Hush City Soundwalks were initiated by Dr. Antonella Radicchi in 2017, in parallel to the release of the Hush City app: they are free, public soundwalks guided in search of quietness, in which the Hush City app is exploited to map and evaluate quiet areas in cities [1].

The Hush City app empowers users to identify, access and evaluate everyday quiet areas in their neighborhoods, therefore contributing to their protection and planning by municipalities. Data collected with the Hush City app is linked in real time to the Hush City Map, a web-based map accessible to everyone interested in finding quiet areas near the places they live or in other cities worldwide.

Barcelona strives to be in the lead as a city for which the streets and squares are places of encounter and play, of cultural, economic and social exchange. A city with the cleanest air, plenty of green spaces and peaceful traffic. A city in which people use and enjoy being in public spaces. The program ‘omplim de vida els carrers’ (We fill the streets with life), implements the Supeblocks model in Barcelona (Superilla in Catalan). The project requires everyone’s involvement through a participatory process with neighborhoods and collectives from the areas where the superblock is implemented. They participate in the analysis and design of each Superblock and adapt the model to the characteristics of the area and the specific needs of each case [2]. The aim of the soundwalk in the Superblock Poblenou was to assess whether it could act as a quiet area for Barcelona. Since the superblock model already incorporates participatory planning practices it is an excellent place for inclusionary studies.

Image displaying the map of the Superblock Poblenou, comparing the urban planning street use before and after the implementation of the Superblock project [3].

The Poblenou neighborhood has transitioned from being essentially an industrial site to becoming a mixed space of residential and business areas. Therefore, the spaces promoted by superblocks can be considered for new developments not only now but also for determining future uses.

Image illustrating the soundwalk route held in Barcelona on September 27th. The Poblenou Superblock is marked with a red frame, and the soundwalk’s stops are indicated with numbered markers. This image shows a satellite perspective from Google maps (Map Data: Google 2019)

The soundwalk began on public space within an inner block (Ada Byron Square, see point 1 in Fig. 2), where Dr. Radicchi gave the introduction to the activity. The soundwalk consisted of a guided walk through the superblock Poblenou, with five listening points (see Figure 2). At each location, the participants were invited to first actively listen to the environment for 1-3 minutes in silence, and afterwards assess the location through the Hush City App.

The first listening point was inside the superblock in a green area between the Museum Can Framis and the road (see Figure 3). The second listening point was located between the Museum and the school “Escola flor de maig”. This street has been pedestrianized and the street is currently being used as a public space with plenty of tables, sculptures and a playground. The third listening point was located in an office area next to the Hotel Ibis Barcelona (in Pza Glories 22). In this location minor Tactical Urbanism-orientated interventions were done, consisting of painting the asphalt and installing benches and tables, where office workers usually have lunch. The fourth listening point was in the border of the superblock along a trafficked road and traffic noise dominates the acoustic environment. The soundwalk ended at the fifth listening point, in proximity to one of the access areas of the superblock (point 5 in the map). Here road traffic was also very apparent.

Participants collection ting data and observations at the listening point #1 of the Hush City Soundwalk in Barcelona. Image source courtesy of LaSalle University.

At the end of the soundwalk, a rewarding group discussion took place and the participants shared their impressions of the soundwalks and the soundscapes. The participants were interested by experience, reflecting on how their perspective and senses impacted their opinions of the space. The superblock concept was also discussed. Although the implementation of the superblock seems to have a positive impact on the acoustic environment, there are some neighbours who are opponents to this concept, especially those living along the superblock’s boundaries, where signs against the superblock can be seen appended to balconies. Finally, the importance of public awareness about the quality of the acoustic environment in urban areas was also discussed. Some participants noted that children should be taught about sound and noise at school.
A press release featuring the Hush City Soundwalk was then published by La Salle and it is available here.

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Quiet regards from Berlin!
The Hush City Mobile Lab Team

[1] Dr. Arch. Antonella Radicchi Soundwalks 
[2] Ajuntament de Barcelona, Superilles 
[3] Ajuntament de Barcelona, Poble nou Superilles 

The Global Program of Hush City Soundwalks is initiated and coordinated by Antonella Radicchi in her role of inventor and manager of the Hush City app, and it is part of the Hush City Mobile Lab project, which has received funding from the HEAD-Genuit Foundation.
Hush City app received funding from TU Berlin IPODI-Marie Curie Program (2016-2018) and from the HEAD-Genuit Foundation (2018-2020).