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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Living in London, our acoustic environment is on an endless loop, aeroplanes on the flight path create noise which is constant, and always in the background. There has been an abundance of scientific research confirming a subtle, yet harmful psychological effects of airplane noise towards human beings.

BirdSpace is an attempt to change our aural perception of aeroplane noise in a more whimsical, biophillic way, particularly through the use of bird songs; naturally found sounds make traffic noise more tolerable, and make people feel less crowded. As a result, this project addresses these two themes by creating a multi speaker sound installation in the form of data sonification and augmented environment, allowing the audience to hear bird songs from the departure city of the airplane. By merging two datasets; xeno canto, an online archive of bird recordings, and plane, a source for live aviation traffic– we can map out cities with its own soundtrack of bird songs. The installation consists of six speakers, which are strategically placed in a circle so that the listener would be able to experience the sculptural soundscapes of birds species simultaneously from different cities. Each speaker, representing a different city, is controlled via a Raspberry Pi running a custom Python script that converts airplane traffic to bird songs.

Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the variety of bird species flying over different cities. Depending on the time of day, it also reveals the piece of the soundscape as an evolving, changing construct as it is never the same accumulation of sounds. BirdSpace is the conduit for that experience, bringing people into contact with airplanes as they move above us in the skies as if their birds, in order to inform the creation of restorative experiences in our increasingly airplane noise filled world.