Designing Cities Through Sound

A Comparative Study of Urban Spaces and Soundscapes


  • Clara Martucci University of Florida



soundscape, urban spaces, green spaces, public spaces, architecture, acoustics


Sound shapes space. However, the architectural training of designers usually prioritizes visual aspects of a building or urban space without considering the sonic environment and auditory responses of humans who may engage or occupy the built environment. The concept of the “soundscape” brings together the visual and sonic environments, allowing designers to develop more nuanced, responsive, and effective spaces (Southworth, 1967, pp. 6-8)

Acousticians define soundscape as “a person’s perceptual construct of the acoustic environment of that place” (Kang & Schulte-Fortkamp, 2017, p. 5). People’s interpretation of auditory sensations can lead to either positive or negative feelings regarding that specific place. Because urban spaces include both a great number of sound sources and a high number of people occupying and moving through them, the sonic environments and urban soundscapes are complex, layered, and dense.

This research evaluates the sonic qualities of urban spaces to provide designers with a means by which these complex environments can be better understood, analyzed, and created. It draws on an expanding body of research in architectural acoustics, and direct observation of cities in the United States and Italy conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than relying solely on numeric calculations, this work probes the notion of the “perceptual construct,” seeking to make visual these constructs. Drawings and photographs from different cities are used to study the form of the city through urban edges and the emerging concept of green acoustics. The work provides a way of creating a new architecture of public space through the lens of the sonic environment.