Going beyond Quietness: Determining the Emotionally Restorative Effect of Acoustic Environments in Urban Open Public Spaces.

Affiliation

TECNALIA Research and Innovation, Parque Tecnológico de Bizkaia, Calle Geldo, Edificio 700, 48160 Derio, Bizkaia, Spain. [Email]

Abstract

The capacity of natural settings to promote psychological restoration has attracted increasing research attention, especially with regards to the visual dimension. However, there is a need to extend these studies to urban settings, such as squares, parks or gardens, due to the global trend towards urbanisation, and to integrate the dimension of sound into landscape. Such was the main aim of this study, in which 53 participants assessed four public spaces in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) as part of the CITI-SENSE Project (137 observations were used for analysis). A smartphone application was used to simultaneously collect objective and subjective data. The results show that at the end of the urban environmental experience, there was a statistically significant reduction in negative emotions and perceived stress, and a slight increase in positive emotions. Emotional restoration was mainly associated with prior emotional states, but also with global environmental comfort and acoustic comfort. The soundscape characteristics that contributed to greater emotional restoration and a reduction in perceived stress were pleasantness, calm, fun and naturalness. Therefore, in agreement with previous research, the findings of the present study indicate that besides contributing to the quietness of the urban environment, the urban soundscape can promote psychological restoration in users of these spaces.

Keywords

acoustic environment,emotions,psychological restoration,quietness,soundscape,urban design,urban open public spaces,