Composed City plan

Staalplaat soundsystem and Lola have met during a 5 moth art in public space resicentie at the Zuidas in Amsterdam, a brand new banking quarter.
It was in this period that we have spend long discussions on sound in public space, from simple practical solutions like wind driven percussion instruments that visitors can use to compose, to fundamental working principals.
It was there where we were impressed by the working similarities and contrast between our disciplines.
Besides the obvious differences there are many similarities between sound art and architecture in arranging and composing public space
Working with function, material and volume but from a different perspective to the same problem.

In Composed City we want to show the direct relationship between public space and sound and place it in a broad perspective -historical, present-day, theory and praxis- by means of lectures, presentations and workshops dealing with public space in the city, approached from the view of sound art as well as landscape architecture resulting in a sound art work in public space. Composed city will take place in the preparation of the Berlin festival Tuned City – Between sound and space speculation in May and June.

During the lectures a broad overall view is given on the position of sound and public space, historical and practical, then we’ll slowly focus on the points where sound art and landscape architecture interact. In practice: the first lectures begin with a historical overview of the entire field, the lectures on the present will be more focused on sound art in public space, and the presented artist will be specialized on a field were the architectural and public conditions of the space is a elementary part of their work. We have invited Mark Bain – Edwin van de Heide, Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Carsten Nicolai.

The workshops will focus on the praxis and deal with artistic concepts and practical obstacles on the road to realization of a composition with urban facts. The workshops will result in a sound art composition – spatial as well as sonic – that reveals, emphasizes and uses the sounds of the urban landscape were in contact with local architects to select lacerations that will be the turned in to a urban instrument.

General perspective
Our perspective in the work shop will be dominated by our working philosophy and experience. In al our work we search for the reuse and abuse of everyday elements, in such a way that a composition emerges. This new context gives new life to old objects and urges to reflect on your environment, the sounds that surround you and the way you experience them. For public space, our main question is then how you can compose with your environment, in real time and real space: in the city itself.

With our past projects, we have made experience with sound art in public space.
We want to use public space as an instrument like we did with Architone in Kiel and Graz. Questions occur: How to play a building as a instrument? What is its character and its sound? How can you compose with these components? How does it differ from another building? How can construction, instrument sound and composition form a unity? As a guitar sounds different then a piano, how will a warehouse sound compared to a farm? Can you hear the volume and dimensions? Can you hear the material? Can you hear its character and function? These are questions that are more familiar to an architect then to a composer. Same questions occur when you work with open space like a park or a city square: what street elements can you use? Will you compose it into a city concert or is the square just an instrument, can you use dynamic elements like a train, street sirens or static construction noise?

With this approach we will work investigate several locations. One of them is Wriezener Freiraum, that we take here as an example. In order to make a site specific composition, the elements and characteristics of the terrain and the direct environment should be investigated.

1. the terrain: surface form, surface material, the railway tracks, adjacent street
2. built elements: central derelict building, a new building, metal containers
3. present functions: as a free space, park and play function, bicycle cross terrain
4. direct environment: adjacent building block and its inhabitants, supermarket and O2-stadium

During an intense workshop, 10-15 students will work on this. The workshop consists of collective work, discussion and individual work.
The students will start discussing different concepts for the cross-polonisation of sound art and landscape architecture. This results in a vast inventory of ideas and locations that will be checked for originality and viability; the best 3 ideas will be worked out. Then we’ll deal with the road to realisation. This will result in at least a model, an explanation and a budget. Afterwards, volunteers can help realizing the design on one of the locations. The result of the workshops will be published and presented at the exhibition of festival Tuned City, which opens on the 1st of  June.

Geert-Jan Hobijn and Peter Veenstra, February 2008
Composed City is an initiative of:
Staalplaat Soundsystem, Lola landscape architects
in collaboration with: Tuned City festival, Sound Studies, Universität  der Künste Berlin , Technische Universität Berlin