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Experiential Walks for Urban Design

 Experiential Walks for Urban Design

Experiential Walks for Urban Design


Community, one of the fundamental concepts in sociology and anthropology, has been part of the discussion about the role that senses play in the experience and understanding of place from the very beginnings of sensory studies. Schafer [53, 54] and Truax [58, 59], coined and explored the notion of acoustic community, as a symbolic entity created by and within an acoustic space, a soundscape.

The sense of communality derives from the community’s exposure to certain sounds, often everyday and common, for example the church bell, the sound of trees at the neighboring forest in windy weather and is established through ‘soundmarks’ and ‘sound barriers’, which are perceived by the community members and not necessarily by others ([58], p. 59). Sounds are mediators, carriers of meanings and,through familiarity or distance, they can act as the basis for the construction of difference. If soundscapes can form acoustic communities, it is open for speculation, whether other forms of sensorial input can in turn create communities based on the common experience of the sensory environment.

Even though sound can dominate an environment and have an essential role in navigation through space with the help of soundmarks, other sensory stimuli separately or jointly with sound are also able to acquire a symbolic dimension for a certain group of people. The redolent lavender fields in Aix-en-Provence, France, the extensive olive groves on Paxos island, Greece dominating the sensescape with an odorous ambience, the distinctively steep streets of San Fransisco, and many other examples from around the world, foster communities around them through their distinct sensory experience. Even in the case of soundscapes, the sound might be domineering, still, it is not the only stimulus available; the wind is not only heard, but felt, and often carries smells with it.

These communities might follow a centroperipheral system with the stimulus standing at the center or like a rhizomatic structure [17] with multiple stimuli connected through narratives and memory fragments. By suggesting the notion of sensory community, we aim to shed light on the communal bonds formed by embodied sensory experience which exists in parallel to other types of communities and social spaces.

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