This blog has French and English content and may not be available in both languages.
Ce blogue présente du contenu rédigé en anglais et en français. Certains billets peuvent ne pas être disponibles dans les deux langues.

Developers Blog #1: We’re developing new tools to help you plan urban soundscapes

By Richard Yanaky, Lead Developer

This is our first in a new series of posts that will help keep you up to date on our development process of a new tool that will help professionals plan for better sounding cities.  Today’s post introduces the tool’s intent.  You can keep track of this series of posts by following through the tools-for-soundscape-design tag.

Helping professionals plan for sound

We’ve been listening to not only the world around us, but also to you, the professionals that are helping our cities sound better.  We recognize that you already have a lot on your plates to make our cities both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Yet, we are continually asking you to do more and more for us, in new ways that many of you have never been formally trained in. To help things along, we have been taking active steps to provide you with better tools for this new task.

Make room, sound level meter! We’re giving you a partner

We love our trusty sound level meters (SLM).  They provide us with valuable information to help keep everything in a legal and ‘acceptable’ decibel range, and is the current tool of choice when inspecting noise violations in our cities.  But don’t be mistaken – they can’t do everything.  In fact, their usage is highly limited to the context they were taken from; time of day, location, sound source, etc. will all be highly relevant. Furthermore, sound level meters only work in places that already exist – not ones that are still in the planning phase.  As such, we need a new tool that will help us proactively stop problems before they even start.  We know there are models for estimating sound levels, but what about sound quality?

A new tool to help you experience your sound design decisions

Since the primary tool for noise management cannot stand by itself, it must be supplemented with more help.  Our proposed tool under development is an immersive soundscape simulator. Using this, professionals will be able to manipulate a sound environment in a 3D space to experience the acoustic consequences of your design choices over extended periods of time.  Through a quick and simple interface, you’ll be able to quickly change and compare different design choices.

We realize that several soundscape simulators have been created in the past.  However, these have typically been created by researchers, for researchers, with specific goals in mind. For this project, we are focusing specifically on your needs, rather than our own.  We’ll be touching base with you along the way so that we can seamlessly introduce this into your existing workflow.  That said, we’ve already got a head start on that part.

Supported by years of transdisciplinary research

For years now, the Sounds in the City team has been conducting research on soundscapes and how they can aid in making our cities not only sound less bad, but rather, how we can make our cities sound better.  We’ve taken a multifaceted approach to this, including:

  • analyzing sound management regulations and practices across the globe.
  • conducting experiments on what constitutes a ‘good’ soundscape by analyzing both the physical aspects of sound, as well as how we perceive them.
  • looking at how sounds affect people, and how this in turn, affects the usage of public space.
  • working with industry partners and citizens to perform soundscape interventions. Together, we’ve transforming underutilized city space into vibrant pocket parks.
  • holding annual workshops to help share expert soundscape knowledge with professionals.

These partnerships and experiences have brought us to the next logical step: the development of new tools that will both provide training for professionals on fundamental soundscape methods, as well as provide an immersive sandbox that professionals can use as a sounding board to experiment with their own creative soundscape ideas.

Stay tuned for more details!

We’ll be sharing different tool features, design choices, and other enlightening information throughout the development process. We’ll also be welcoming feedback from our potential users throughout the design process.

Sounds in the City presents at Semaine du son UNESCO Canada

by Edda Bild

The UNESCO Sound Week (Semaine du Son UNESCO), an event taking place all over France every year in January since 2017, was planned to have its first iteration in Quebec in 2020. A week-long series of events under the umbrella of the UNESCO Sound Week Canada (La Semaine du Son de L’UNESCO Canada) was organized in late March as part of the 2020 International Year of Sound. As with many events right now, it went digital in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All presentations were transferred online, and were uploaded temporarily on the page of the Semaine du Son. Sounds in the City was invited to give two presentations.

Soundscape design for urban professionals (Le Son pour les practiciens en aménagement)

By Edda Bild and Cynthia Tarlao

Sounds in the City presents the outline of a course we are putting together, entitled: A new intro to sound: Concrete steps for designing with sound in mind. The course is intended for an audience of urban design professionals from the private sector, or anyone else interested in sound-aware city-making processes. Click here to access a teaser presentation (in French) for our soundscape design course.

For those of you reading this blogpost, the syllabus of the course and the format are still work in progress, so your feedback is highly appreciated! Contact us at for details on the course or for suggestions and recommendations.

Montreal as a soundscape living lab (Montréal comme laboratoire vivant sur les ambiances sonores)

By Catherine Guastavino

Sounds in the City PI, Catherine Guastavino, gives a description of how we use the city of Montreal as our living lab for soundscape research. Pairing original user research, like questionnaire studies and interviews, with sound-aware design thinking, we are working with partners to bring sound to the design table. Click here to access the presentation (in French).

The Sounds in the City team hopes everyone is staying safe and healthy. Our team is adapting our work and research priorities to the new realities and the “new normal”. Stay tuned for future “sounds during the COVID-19 quarantine” – related posts.

Les présentations des Journées du Bruit Environnemental sont disponibles en ligne

L’équipe Ville sonore a participé aux premières Journées du Bruit Environnemental organisées par le Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux en novembre dernier à Montréal. Ces journées rassemblaient des acteurs des milieux universitaire, municipal, provincial et fédéral, des intervenants du réseau de la santé et des services sociaux, du milieu communautaire et des représentants de groupes de de citoyens, pour mieux comprendre les enjeux liés au bruit environnemental et à sa gestion. En effet, le bruit environnemental peut être conçu comme enjeu de santé publique, de qualité de vie, de pollution environnementale ou comme ressource pour l’aménagement. Dans tous les cas, le sonore joue un rôle crucial dans l’expérience de vie des citoyens et l’aménagement de nos villes.

Les vidéos des présentations et tables rondes sont maintenant disponibles sur le site web du MSSS. Elles sont jointes à la programmation des journées au lien ci-dessous. Vous y trouverez notamment trois présentations de Prof. Catherine Guastavino, qui dirige le partenariat Ville Sonore. Ses présentations portent sur l’expérience sonore en milieu urbain, les normes et valeurs au Québec (en collaboration avec Thomas Dupont) et l’étude de cas de la place Fleurs-de-Macadam sur le Plateau Mont-Royal. Mais c’est l’équipe Ville Sonore au complet qui était impliquée dans ces journées, notamment avec la présentation de démonstrations sonores immersives très appréciées par les participants.

Programmation des journées avec lien vers les présentations :

Lien des vidéos des présentations de Prof. Catherine Guastavino :

Dans la salle de demos, les ambiances sonores virtuelles

Have your voice heard, we’re listening: what does the Quartier des spectacles sound like to you?

Do you want to help and engage with our research at Sounds in the City? Now that 2020 is in full swing, our team invites you to participate in an online survey for a research project conducted in collaboration with Quartier des Spectacles Partnership. We are looking back at the 2019 festival season with this survey to get a sense of the expectations that people who work, live and visit the area of the Quartier des Spectacles have in terms of the sound environment of the neighborhood. The results will be used to inform recommendations for improving current Montreal noise management strategies, so every response matters!

To access the survey and share your opinion on the 2019 festival season, click:

The survey will take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Your answers are anonymous, and you are of course free to withdraw from participation at any time. The team thanks you for sharing your insight with us.

Sounds in the City goes to Boston

Soundwalk in Boston's Christian Science Center

Earlier this month, Sounds in the City team members Daniel Steele and Edda Bild headed to the Initiative on Cities at Boston University to lead a Boston soundwalk and participate in a seminar series on urban sound. Check out a full summary of the event here:

The Sounds of Boston and Beyond: Hearing the Sonic Dimension of Cities

and find a full video of the seminar here:

Facebook Live: Initiative on Cities

Soundwalk in a residential walkway
Soundwalk in Boston Symphony Hall

Promoting cross-sector collaboration

by Christine Kerrigan

What could our cities look and feel like if we kept the sensory experience and local ecology in mind when we design and manage urban environments? I have the sneaking suspicion that they would be be happier and healthier places to live.

Designing in a more holistic way is well within our reach and it just requires us to collaborate more across sectors and disciplines. It’s in this vein that our McGill Sounds in the City team, in collaboration with the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), Laval University and the Direction de la Santé Publique de Montréal, brought together professionals (urban planners, sound professionals, health professionals, engineers, designers, elected officials, researchers, etc.) from the public, private, academic and non-profit sectors for an afternoon participatory workshop to collaborate on ways to help our cities sound better. Multidisciplinary teams shared their expertise and experiences with one another as they worked to improve the sound environments on three different case studies: 1) a quiet zone park area being disrupted by construction; 2) a high rise building being constructed adjacent to an artery; and 3) a residential area undergoing significant commercial development. New connections were formed amongst the participants, which we hope will seed interesting future collaborations.

Our urban populations will continue to increase and we can no longer afford to work in isolation if we want to tackle system challenges our cities face now and in the future. As Buckminster Fuller put it, “We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.”

For more photos of the workshop:

Our July 9th participatory workshop was hosted by ÉTS and also created in partnership with the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux (MSSS) and the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC).

If you are interested in a workshop like this one, for you or your colleagues, please get in touch with the Sounds in the City team at (P.I. Catherine Guastavino, McGill University).

Fleurs de Macadam: Transformer le paysage sonore urbain

by Valérian Fraisse

Depuis l’année dernière, l’équipe Sounds in the City, en étroite collaboration avec les designers sonores de chez Audiotopie, met en place des installations sonores sur la toute récente Place Fleurs-de-Macadam, au 962 Mont-Royal Est, durant l’été. Le but est de valoriser les différentes vocations de cet havre urbain, en tant que lieu de repos, de rencontres, et plus encore. En somme, créer une bulle dans la ville en réduisant l’impact sonore du trafic, mais aussi agir avec les acteurs et spécialistes du monde urbain. Ce projet va de pair avec l’objectif global de notre équipe, qui est d’enrichir le contact entre la recherche et le monde professionnel, et trouver de nouveaux moyens intelligents d’améliorer la vie dans la ville en agissant sur le son.

Dans cette optique, d’autres projets collaboratifs et artistiques verront le jour dans les années qui viennent. En attendant, venez apprécier et écouter nos expérimentations au 962 Mont-Royal Est cet été !

Plus d’informations à propos de l’installation de l’année dernière sont disponibles dans cet article de Céline Bonnot:

Sounds in the City visits Belgium – presentations available for download

Members of Sounds in the City found themselves in the lovely city of Ghent, Belgium for a symposium on urban sound.

Christine Kerrigan was one of about two dozen invited speakers who had been invited to speak on their soundscape expertise. Christine shared her experience at the intersection of multidisciplinary design and soundscape in her talk, “Bringing sound into urban public place design.” Her presentation slides, as well as those of many other presenters, are available for download here:

Christine also served as a jury member for the Soundscape Hackathon. View images of her participation here:

Je vote pour la science : « Ne pas sous-estimer la gestion du bruit »

Un membre de notre équipe, Romain Dumoulin, présente comment la ville anticipe et gère les bruits urbains. Aujourd’hui, l’approche courante est basée sur les nuisances définies par les plaintes des citoyens et limitée par les ressources humaines. Il explique qu’il faut sensibiliser les décideurs de la ville pour changer l’environnement sonore. Vous pouvez l’écoutez en suivant ce lien :