Are Urban Park Soundscapes Restorative or Annoying?

Invited paper

Sarah Payne

Heriot-Watt University

Tuesday 2 june, 2015, 11:00 - 11:20

0.4 Brussels (189)

Urban parks play an important role in creating healthy and sustainable cities for urban dwellers. They provide opportunities to interact with nature and visually the perceiver can feel like they are immersed in a different world to the city. Therefore, urban parks can be restorative environments allowing people to recover from any directed attentional fatigue. Opportunities to restore are important for people to avoid prolonged fatigue, stress, and potentially, symptoms of burnout. However, acoustically, urban parks can also be filled with the sounds from the surrounding city which may be less restorative than natural sounds. Using a virtual reality laboratory, this study assesses the perceived restorativeness and noise annoyance of two urban park soundscapes. Seventy-seven participants viewed a video whereby 'they' walked along a street and into an urban park. They rested there for a few minutes before walking back out of the park. This video was either accompanied by no sound, or one of two created soundscapes containing natural sounds and traffic. Participants evaluated their experience in terms of the perceived restorativeness of the environment/soundscape and where appropriate, noise annoyance. This paper will discuss the outcome of these results and the relationship between the two concepts of restoration and annoyance.

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