In an ode to pushing the envelope of urban landscape research, we are collaborating with Andrew Gressett, Associate Designer at SWA Group and have embarked on a compelling study. The study explores the untapped potential of white noise in water features as a soothing soundscape within metropolitan cities. Andrew, an ardent music enthusiast and recipient of SWA’s prestigious Patrick T. Curran Fellowship, recognized the lack of information on the subject of sound mitigation. Following a discussion with his colleagues, he initiated this joint venture, in partnership with SWA XL Labs and Crystal Fountains. Together, we aim to create a holistic sensory experience for patrons of urban spaces.
A Look Into The Study
Andrew’s primary objective with this study is to explore the acoustic characteristics of water features as an integral part of urban design. The study will quantitatively investigate and examine the decibel levels of sound produced by water features and isolate the frequency ranges that various water feature types and effects produce. By analyzing the decibel levels in different urban spaces, we seek to draw accurate conclusions regarding the effectiveness of specific water feature designs in masking targeted levels of sound. As the research progresses and a comprehensive library of recorded soundscapes is established, designers will have a valuable reference tool to inform their designs. This will allow them to also consider the audible impact and efficacy of elements within their design rather than solely emphasizing the visual experience. The research is ongoing and continuously evolving. We are uncovering new insights as we delve deeper into the intricate details, with upcoming phases on the horizon.
Unveiling Sound Patterns: Exploring Acoustics: In-situ testing of Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, Texas to determine how sound dissipates over a certain incremental range. This is followed by a visual representation of the sound collected in sound map software, Rhino & Grasshopper.
A New Approach To Design
As urban areas expand and higher density living becomes the norm, creative approaches to designing meaningful public spaces is crucial. This drew Andrew to turn his attention towards soundscape design. By carefully selecting water features types and effects that generate specific sound levels and acoustic frequencies, landscape architects can shape the auditory experience in the outdoor realm. Contextual factors of the surrounding environment can inform design decisions of water features that are appropriate for different spaces. “Is it traffic noise that we’re dealing with? Are we designing a park in a highly populated area? Is it something over a freeway which has a very different sound level than something like a major thoroughfare or even just collector streets?” Andrew questions. For instance, noise produced by surrounding high-traffic areas can be muffled out by using water jets shooting at high heights or water dropping from a certain altitude. In contrast, a low-traffic area may require a different approach, such as a cascading water wall with a more rumbling sound.
To incorporate soundscape analysis into the design process, a comprehensive library of sounds and water features is crucial. Early engagement with sound-related issues allows for thoughtful spatial organization and design moves that prioritize the acoustic quality of the environment. Addressing sound-related concerns proactively can lead to more enjoyable and functional spaces.
“Our natural evolution
of being involved in the study is an extension of what we’ve learned in the
past. Our in-house capabilities allow us to facilitate mock-ups and test for
sound, which we have been doing for years. “
Rob Mikula OALA, CSLA, ASLA
Director of Creative Design
(At Crystal Fountains since 2005)
Mitigating Urban Noise Pollution & Creating Serene Environments
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines noise above 65 decibels (dB) as noise pollution. Noise becomes harmful when it exceeds 75 dB and is painful above 120 dB. According to recent data from another WHO study, noise pollution has steadily increased by an average of 1.5 dB per year in major U.S. cities over the past decade and in many major cities, such as New York, average daily noise levels has already reached 85 decibels. This level of noise and its persistent growth poses a significant problem for urban dwellers, such as health complications, including sleep disturbance, cardiovascular issues and impaired cognitive function. Addressing the issue of noise pollution underscores the importance of implementing effective measures to mask unwanted noise and create cocoons of respite.
The calming ambiance created by natural soundscapes promotes mental rejuvenation, reducing stress and improving overall mental health within the community. Think of a house by the beach or sitting by a river. In the process of mitigating and masking unwanted sounds, we also provide the opportunity for new sounds to emerge. This could be the crunching sounds of a gravel path, wind rustling the leaves of the nearby trees, or birds nestling in their restored habitat. Through thoughtful design, we wield the power to recreate natural landscapes within concrete jungles.
Creating Serenity Through Harmonious Design: Incorporating white noise in the design of both Carpenter Park, Texas and Atlantic Station, Georgia where we were the Water Feature Product Manufacturer, serves as an integral part in reducing noise pollution in surrounding areas and helps to cultivate a more serene experience for all.
Our collaborative study represents an exciting step towards better understanding the benefits and transformative ability of water features as soundscapes. As the research progresses, we hope the findings will serve as a valuable resource for landscape architects, urban planners and designers in shaping the future of urban design.
“The challenge when it comes to sound is that it’s an invisible medium. For us to really tackle and understand it, makes it a difficult task. Sound is always present and we don’t notice it until its negatively impactful. If we don’t tackle it early on, then essentially the spaces we create for communities aren’t going to be used in the way we want them to be. “
SWA Group Houston
Welcome to “The Art of Water” podcast where we dive into the world of water features and explore the transformative power they hold. Joining us is Andrew, a design associate from SWA, an innovative design firm. Together, we’ll be delving into a fascinating topic: the transformative impact of sound in water features in shaping urban spaces.