City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

14 Cities: City of Sonovac

Written in



From the 14 Cities series:

"Though some claim it is merely a frivolous architectural theme park without the attractions, others have declared it to be the most interesting urban experience in Australia. For Sonovac is a city designed with as much attention given to sound as is usually given to sight.

After the independently wealthy Lord Mayor of Hastings, Victoria, Gavin Stark, lost his sight in a freak boating accident and gained an interest in the ideas of Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa — who decried the ‘ocularcentric’ nature of most architecture — Stark has carefully reconfigured Hastings as “Sonovac, a city designed to heighten the senses”.

Stark’s council’s first move twas to ban traditional traffic from the city, instead favouring electric vehicles. The sound of these has been calibrated to be generated by particular locales: an array of pipa and guan strike up as you drive through the city’s small Chinatown. Elsewhere, sound designers have ‘primed’ the streets with latent compositions, which are then performed by the passing cars. All public art is sound art.

Three giant concrete ‘acoustic mirrors’ have been imported from Dungeness, UK, and sit on the promenade, amplifying the sounds of the ocean.

Streets are designed to muffle, cloak and dissemble industrial noise, through the careful use of materials and foliage, and the city has become home to a thriving music scene."

Notes: Almost a clichéd entry here, I know. City of Sound Bingo! "Pallasmaa; Ballard; oculacentric; acoustic mirrors; music scenes etc". This one, named after Ballard's short story, builds on too many previous entries to list coherently, but 'Cars b/w Are Friends Electric' on the sound of cities with electric cars lists most.


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