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Finding tranquillity amidst the urban sprawl

Anderson Acoustics is proud to announce that we are working in partnership with the Tranquil City project, an initiative to promote the importance of spaces of calm in cities. The project was founded and is led by Grant Waters, one of the consulting team who heads up our sound quality and soundscape practice at Anderson Acoustics.

According to the LSE’s Cities’ Urban Age programme, the world is approaching 70% urbanisation by 2050 with London having already exceeding its historical high of 8.6 million people in 2015 with an average growth of nine new residents per hour – a relative snail’s pace compared to the 70 per hour in developing cities such as Delhi, Lagos and Dhaka. Nevertheless, London will need to accommodate an additional 1 million people by 2030 (Guardian, 2015).

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) acknowledges that promoting healthy communities is needed and introduces the important concept that a green space may be designated and protected from development where it is “demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of (…) its tranquillity”.

The NPPF also promotes conserving and enhancing the natural environment, supporting multidisciplinary approaches, including noise, air pollution, and protection and enhancement of biodiversity. Of particular note, it states that the planning system should aim to “identify and protect areas of tranquility, which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason“.

Tranquillity is, by definition, “free from disturbance; calm”, but is inherently linked with quiet, positive and natural soundscapes, which are considered increasingly rare in urban environments.

As Grant explains, “Tranquil City is challenging the very concept of what the city can be and is providing a positive outlook for the future of our built environment. It brings together soundscapes with a variety of other disciplines such as air quality management, green infrastructure and ecology, urban climate, active travel, sustainable architecture, public engagement and data science, to promote a healthier, engaged, balanced, sustainable and more hopeful future for all our cities”.

Soundscapes are an integral part of our urban environment. We are constantly reminded of the sheer pace of our cities, from the sounds of transport and construction to busy shopping streets and large outdoor events. However, to live healthy, enjoyable lifestyles, most of us need balance – including spaces and time for quiet and calm, to contemplate and reconnect. Our sound environment is one element that can help us find that balance and, by working with other disciplines, we can begin to realise the potential of soundscapes and their relevance in creating healthier cities in the future.

Tranquil City are now completing their Smart City experiment, as part of Organicity, which looked at engaging citizens to create technologies that can improve the urban environment.

Joe Baggaley, Principal Consultant at Anderson Acoustics commented, “The consideration of ‘place’ and ‘placemaking’ is becoming increasingly important as we continue to develop in our ever-growing cities and urban areas. Landscape architects and master planners who incorporate sound design within their proposals not only address a key element in the human experience of place, but also differentiate themselves from their competition.”

At Anderson Acoustics, we regularly use this approach with architects, urban designers, policy makers and local communities during design and consultation processes to help to develop places with identity and longstanding lifestyle benefits for their residents and users.

To find out more about our work with tranquillity and soundscapes please contact Grant on 020 3176 7909. To find out more about our work with Soundscapes and related services, please visit our Soundscapes sector page here.

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