Manual for Acoustic Planning and Urban Sound Design

Manual for Acoustic Planning and Urban Sound Design - Logo

To be kept informed about this project’s progress and outputs, please contact sven.g.anderson@gmail.com.


A Project by Sven Anderson with Dublin City Council

This project was initiated as part of Interacting With the City, the second strand of the Dublin City Public Art Programme, and is funded from the per cent for art scheme through the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The pattern of 14 points that forms the identity for MAP corresponds to the locations of the current ambient noise-monitoring sensors installed in Dublin, extracted from the map of the city. These sensors measure and record the city’s sonic dynamics, as mandated in the European Environmental Noise Directive established in 2002, producing a sequence of data that establishes a legible but abstract representation of the city’s sound environment. The MAP project takes this abstraction as the entry point at which the city as an institution initiates its dialog with the sound environment, seeking out further abstractions as well as forging a more concrete operational phenomenology.


For more information on Dublin’s ambient noise monitoring network, visit: dublincitynoise.sonitussystems.com

For more information about The Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC), visit: ec.europa.eu/environment/noise/directive.htm


Toward a Minor Architecture
Manual for Acoustic Planning

Manual for Acoustic Planning and Urban Sound Design (MAP) is a public artwork based on working for one year within the city council in the experimental role of Dublin City Acoustic Planner & Urban Sound Designer, negotiating the projects’ agenda and workflow in response to how this concept is received internally within the council. This project emphasizes a dematerialized practice through which practical outputs (in the form of public sound installations) emerge as residual artifacts that are encountered as design prototypes executed within (or even by) the council itself. This approach opens new channels for the city – as an institution – to engender a sense of responsibility and possibility regarding this mode of working with sound in the urban context as an extension of existing planning and design processes.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari describe minor literature as emerging from a minority culture expressed within or through a majority lanuage, burgeoning with an implicit power to deterritorialize the power of the majority and to reveal the latent power of the marginalized or minoritarian perspective. We might imagine the concept of a minor architecture with the same potential, in which alternative spatial practices that perform as para-sites upon and within the fields of architecture and urban design are able to expose highly relevant modes of spatial enquiry distinct from those that emerge from the established perspectives of the major urbanist professions . As contemporary art practices cross over into this domain and seek to function from this minor perspective in relation to the production of the built environment, the concept of a minor architecture becomes a useful conceptual tool for understanding how these practices relate to the majorities that they interface with.

Working from the minor perspective of sound within the city (or of urban sound designer within the city council), the MAP project functions as a productive dialectic set within an institutional framework, suggesting an optimistic mode of sustainable production that looks beyond the exectution of finite urban interventions as well as beyond an internalized cycle of institutional critique.


Sound Installations

The MAP project framework is currently focused on the production of two public sound installations, which serve as urban prototypes exploring new approaches to working with sound in the public realm. Each of these projects has evolved as a specific response to the site in which it is being installed, as well as to longer-term urban development projects that are currently active in the city of Dublin.

Continuous Drift is a sound installation sited in Meeting House Square, exploring the possibility of public environmental or atmospheric control. The installation is currrently in a prototype phase as it is integrated into the square for testing prior to its launch. More information can be found at:


Glass House is a larger sound installation being integrated into a series of 12 public lighting elements that line the western side of Smithfield Plaza. This project is tied in to the activity of a local cinema bordering the square (Light House Cinema), producing a link between the constantly unfolding mediascape of the cinema and the open dynamics of the public square. This installation is currently being installed on two of the 12 lighting elements for testing and launch in the final quarter of 2014. For more information visit:


As of October 2014, both of these installations have become active topics of conversation within the council. By fostering these ongoing discussions and providing the foundation for the realization of shared public listening experiences, both Continuous Drift and Glass House demonstrate readily-available methodologies for promoting an active listening culture within the city of Dublin.


Research Strategy

The notion of establishing the role of the urban acoustic planner emerged from the work of R. Murray Schafer in the 1970s. Several decades later, this idea has developed not only through the continual evolution of the soundscape concept and approach, but also in reaction to fundamental changes of how urban space is planned, mediated, and represented. This project will serve as an interface between a mid-sized, contemporary urban region (Dublin, Ireland) and a series of research practices and design strategies that place an emphasis on the acoustic dimension of public spaces, civic architectures, and urban experiences.

The project’s core methodologies are influenced by the concept of sonic effects emanating from CRESSON (Centre de recherche sur l’espace sonore et l’environnement urbain), by projects discussed via the International Ambiances Network, as well as by research outputs emerging from the Soundscape of European Cities and Landscapes (COST TUD0804) project that ended in 2013. These methods will be extended by observations filtered from contemporary praxis focused on sensory urbanism, experiential architecture, and related technologies. The project will also emphasize the sound installation practices of a select set of sound artists, demonstrating how the methods illustrated through these projects’ design and implementation might cross over from the context of contemporary art into the fields of architecture and urban design.

While the project seeks to extend such longer-term research strategies, it is simultaneously focused on developing a concise means of addressing disparate issues in Dublin’s urban sound environment without becoming focused on any single issue or project. The project’s rapid synthesis of observation, discourse, fieldwork, and prototyping will form the basis of a Draft Dublin City Acoustic Plan which will inform future project work in Dublin and abroad.

By creating this new role within Dublin City Council, and by working with both the planning and public art departments, this project draws attention to the creative potential of the urban sound environment as a medium for design and intervention. Referencing existing noise maps and more traditional noise mitigation techniques that have been implemented in the city (following from The European Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC) as a starting point, this project will focus on considering the introduction of urban sound installations and on promoting discursive design theory stemming from contemporary arts and alternative urban spatial practices within local planning policy.

The work carried out in this project seeks to highlight the richness and complexity of Dublin’s urban soundscape as a positive characteristic, which serves to condition the city’s unique ambiance and urban experience. The identification of distinct aural typologies within the city combined with the resources produced through the project’s documentation and the construction of a Draft Dublin City Acoustic Plan will provide guidelines for protecting, maintaining, and improving local soundscapes that will be integrated in future planning strategies.



Beyond Noise and Silence:
Listening for the City

A public symposium exploring the intersection of sound art, public space, and urban design, presented by Dublin City Council (DCC) in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and The National College of Art and Design (NCAD). This event took place over three days in April and May, 2014.


This symposium proposed a series of conversations that form a bridge between individual sound art practices that verge on the urban scale and a series of questions that address the possibility and relevance of a discipline which might lie somewhere between public sound art, urban sound design, and urban acoustic planning. Alluding to utopian and positivist urban agendas alongside the practical and logistical concerns of working in public space, the symposium sought to address practice and experience before theory, shifting through three themes – Medium, Practice, and Environment - and inviting participation from artists, curators, architects, planners, engineers, researchers, and others with an interest in sound in public space. Instead of enforcing a binary opposition between the visual and the multisensory, Beyond Noise and Silence: Listening for the City presented this discussion in relation to other aspects of contemporary urban design and experimentation, with a strong focus on the city of Dublin as well as a selection of international perspectives.


Medium: Exploring Sound Installation and Urban Space
Practice: Various Perspectives Working with Sound (Art) and the City
Environment: From Sound Art to Urban Sound Design and Acoustic Planning

Participants for these sessions included:

Sven Anderson (Artist / Urban Acoustic Planner)
María Andueza Olmedo (Curator)
Christina Kubisch (Artist)
Steve Larkin (Architect)
Brian McManus (Head of Traffic Noise & Air Quality Unit, DCC)
Dennis McNulty (Artist)
Ailbhe Murphy (Artist / Curator)
Gascia Ouzounian (Artist / Musicologist)



MAP: Manual for Acoustic Planning and Urban Sound Design is supported by:

The Dublin City Public Art Programme
Dublin City Council
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government

Dublin City Council - Logo

Special thanks to:

Ruairi O Cuiv and the Arts Office in Dublin City Council.

Dick Gleeson, Ali Grehan, Brian Swan and the DCC Planning and City Architects Departments.

Ruth Dowling, Mary Mooney, Deirdre Ni Raghallaigh, Pauline Riordan, Zaira Rivera, Jeremy Wales, and everyone in The Studio at DCC.

Veronica Beausang, John Egan, Margaret Geraghty, Siobhan Maher, Mary McInerney, Coilin O’Reilly and everyone else at DCC who has supported this project.

Brian McManus and the DCC Air Quality Monitoring and Noise Control Unit.

Martin Feeney, Seamus MacSweeney and the DCC Public Lighting Department.

Hayley Farrell and the DCC Parks Department.

Mariusz Domchowski, Robert Finn, Ed Guiney, Maria Heffernan, Chelsea Morgan Hoffmann, Helen Hutton, and Andrew Lowe at Light House Cinema and Element Pictures.

Sean Harrington and SHA Architects.

Paul O’Toole and the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Linda Doyle and CTVR at Trinity College Dublin.

Sarah Dunne, Rachel O’Dwyer, Linda O’Keeffe and Interference Journal.

Sarah Lappin, Gascia Ouzounian and the Recomposing the City: Sonic Art and Urban Architectures research group at Queen’s University Belfast.

Teresa Dillon and everyone at the Science Gallery involved in the Urban Knights series.

All of the participants in the Beyond Noise and Silence symposium.

Mechtild Manus, Barbara Ebert and The Goethe-Institut, Irland.

Declan Long and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

Iseult Byrne and Ciara Gogarty for their support with the Beyond Noise and Silence event.

Rossi McAuley and Distinctive Repetition for consultation and work on this project’s identity.

This project is indebted to the perspective gained from conversations and discussions (both in passing and in depth) with María Andueza, Ricardo Atienza, Anamarija Batista, Emily Bereskin, Mohammed Boubezari, Liz Burns, Karl Burke, Caroline Cowley, Christoph Cox, Taylor Deupree, Teresa Dillon, Jennie Guy, Nina Hällgren, Russell Hart, Bjorn Hellstrom, Clodagh Kenny, Szilvia Kovács, Brandon Labelle, Carina Lesky, Dennis McNulty, Toby O’Connor, Paul O’Neill, Udo Noll, Dietmar Offenhuber, Garrett Phelan, Francesco Pilla, Aisling Prior, Maria do Rosario Saraiva, Dawn Scarfe, Carsten Seiffarth, Jed Speare, Carsten Stabenow, Ben Swire, and Nathalie Weadick.