Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sound in the analysis of urban morphology

Spectogram version 16. Image downloaded from
The perception of the space structures in 3D and superficial in 2D, is given fundamentally through the vision, but also through the rest of the senses that indicate us the qualities of that space or surface.

The term “haptic” is used in psychology to indicate the tactile thing, the own perceptions, the use of the senses in general. The spaces that are lived from the haptic perception are understood in their details.
Could we wonder, until what point we can advance in our urban morphology mensurations? To take mensurations we need a previous representation that can be a visual, auditory, tactile construction, etc. In the case of a visual construction, it is indispensable to keep in mind that although the object has its intrinsic characteristics, the observer has different sensations according to the way in that the light is distributed on the object or in that the objects distribute the light in the space.
The great advance of softwares in different disciplines allows us to think that we will not find limits to intelectualize the use of the space and the forms that are contained in it. Any situation of the environment can transform it in an analyzable image and in consequence it is commendable of being measured in its physical and perceptual aspects. All the places have a character emerging of the construction forms, production ways and consumption that can change in time. Each detail is significant. As well as we find landscapes that are characterized by their acoustic modality and textures, the same thing happens inside housings.
In an investigation that considers the use of all the senses in the habitat, one can also appeal to the study of the sounds that wrap us and see which are the images that derive of them and their fractality grade. It is a new arisen study field that facilitate and deepen the morphological comparisons. These ¨acoustic images¨ of an urban environment, defined as the relationship between the sound of the environment and the urban forms, are similar to the study of ¨sound of color¨. In the practice, the fractal forms of the spectra sound are measured in different areas that will be affected according to the cornices, open areas, quantity of windows, etc.

The analyses of spectra of sounds are graphic of fractal images. The image shown here belongs to the crack of a door. As well as the habitat filled with hierarchically related objects, the sounds also collaborate in the fractal perceptions.
There exist softwares that inversely, allow the import of graphics jpg. instead of the sound file that should correspond to it. Repeating the experience of taking different morphologies, regular, irregular, diffuse, etc, in aerial pictures of format jpg and with discharge of colors, the software reads the pixels interpreting the different tonalities of gray and they are translated into a graph of noise that will be more or less rough, according to the complexity of the input picture. It is very similar to the interpretation of histograms, and with the help of an expert, the results can be very rigorous.
If we tried to interpret the use of the color of a certain community, these softwares would also be adapted and we would be able to infer if the tendency to fractality in a given environment is even tied to such an use of the color.
I consider it indispensable to refine the analysis of the urban morphology by all possible means available, going beyond the mere description of the place and of the pattern that structure the streets.
The urban forms characterize to the sound and their perception; each urban space consists of a certain sound character that will be printed in the collective memory, the identity of their inhabitants, in their emotions. This local sounds, can be analyzed and represented, a sound entity is the consequence of the environment sound. It is possible then to identify the differences among cities by means of their typical sounds, among other qualities.

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