shotgun architecture

Shotgun Architecture is an ongoing project that I started during a residency at the Virtual Museum Zuidas in Amsterdam. The Zuidas is a new business district initiated by a number of financial institutions but which has ambitions to become a “new city centre” Recently the city of Amsterdam announced plans to build a large “culture temple” for blockbuster exhibitions there.

Shotgun Architecture plays with concepts of subjective measurement, translations between sound and image and above all the idea of the publicness of public space.

I recorded the sound of a pistol shot in a number of semi-public open spaces in the Zuidas area, thus collecting acoustic signatures (the impulse responses) of each space. I used them in two ways.

- the recordings were used to create a sound composition which explores the resonances of the chose places.

- the recordings are used as a kind of sonar; the stereo (and therefore 2 dimensional) sound data is analysed for spatial and spectral characteristics which are plotted against each other resulting in an visual map of the acoustic space. These maps, drawn by a computer program, resemble the visual spaces themselves only in terms of scale: a larger, open space results in a wider pattern of lines. Because of the complexity of the acoustic reality of an urban space, the link between the physical plan of the space and the corresponding “sonar map” is very tenuous.

But still they tell me something about the space. The experience of listening to an urban soundscape is difficult to describe, in words or in notation. These maps suggest a way to describe the open-ness or closed-ness of spaces, the density of reflections and reverberation, the presence of strong resonances or mechanical drones.

I intend to develop this technique for visualising acoustic spaces in a way that doesn’t require firing guns!

Justin Bennett.

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