Image of "Messenger and Fans", one of the audio recordings made by the team.
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen our homes become workplaces, gyms, schools and more. But how can we adjust the indoor soundscape of our homes to suit this multiplicity of new uses?
We collaborated with Simone Torresin, a visiting PhD student from the University of Trento, and Eurac Research in Bolzano (Italy), to explore this question
We’re seeking to understand how staying at home has changed people’s acoustic experience, to discover their ideal indoor soundscape, and to use these learnings to influence a better quality of live-work environments in the post-pandemic age.
These indoor soundscapes, recorded during and before the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrate the rich variety of sounds that we live with and which we choose to invite into our homes.
“How we react to sounds is all about the context. The sound of a stream of water is very pleasant. It’s relaxing to go into the woods and sit by a stream. But if you record that sound and play it in the office, everyone would either need to pee or be very annoyed. Different activities require different environments. So how do we plan our built environments to have fewer or more of the right sounds?”
“A silent indoor soundscape is not necessarily the best. When we let some natural sounds in from the outside, people felt more comfortable. It’s interesting that even in London, people still open windows. There is an interaction between indoor sounds and outdoor sounds. Having some types of sound from our window – not necessarily natural sounds but even light traffic or some voices – actually improved the final perception.”
“This sounds like silence but it’s not; there are lots of fans going! In our new project, we will be looking at whether some sounds are pleasant or annoying depending on the type of work you are doing from home – for example, creative thinking or holding a meeting online.”
“We usually think of sound as ‘noisy’. So, we are always trying to protect against outdoor noise. But, in reality, what we perceive as ‘noise’ usually depends on what sound source is generating the noise. Sometimes we need to let in sounds from outdoors because they tell us where we are.”
“These voices were actually recorded in a retail store. The location was chosen as it is a shopping centre in the ground floor where all the shops are accessed via the outdoor space/square. There were many people shopping around and cars are far away. It was a good choice of a location to isolate only human sounds. ”
“All these recordings are made indoors, but focused on what sounds are coming from outside, combined with sounds coming from indoors. Even if you might not be able to put your foot in a garden physically, it is so important to have access to a calm and quiet side of the property and achieve some sonic stress relief.”
Our research into soundscapes continues, and, working with partners to gather these examples, we hope to better understand our living and working soundscapes.
Research Fellow, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources
Professor of Acoustics, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources