1) Can you tell us something about the inspiration behind the Hörstadt/ Acoustic City exhibition?
Eva Lichtenberger: According to European statistics 125 million inhabitants are acoustically disabled - a quarter of the whole European population! A third of all heart- and circulation- related diseases are due to acoustic stress, nevertheless there is almost no political reaction.The Linz-project is not about noise and how to avoid it. It is not an attempt to create absolute silence - it is about freedom of choice. If we were forced to eat as much as we are forced to listen to, there would be a revolution.For example: background music can, if used properly, reduce fear and anxiety, but if you are unable to escape the permanent music at Christmas-markets, then it might get a problem.
The Acoustic City is an initiative of the city of Linz which was intended to promote conscious design of our audible environment. Our acoustic environment is an important part of our living conditions, it affects us directly and we cannot escape - we cannot close our ears. It has an enormous impact on our individual, physical and mental well-being. With conscious planning, new technologies and political decisions the acoustic space can be re-invented. This touches upon transport politics as well as upon production and on the massive presence of background music in the public sphere.
The Linz-Project, in the framework of Linz as European Capital of Culture 2009, was about the social and political implications of noise and the exposure to noise in our cities. Linz wanted to run a sustainable project to initiate processes that would last longer than one year. A major aim was to raise awareness of noise in connection with architecture and planning. This is a project which is still ongoing.
2)What exactly have the city authorities in Linz done to minimise noise pollution?
For example,Linz created places of silence, which were visited by more than 40 000 people. Teenagers used these places for romantic encounters, elderly people to recover from shopping, etc. But to go further, political will and research is needed to develop the project further.
3) How effective has the initiative in Linz been?
The principle of reducing imposed noise has been decided by the City Council of Linz and has become a factor in decision-making by the Linz-administration. The University of Linz will focus on projects connected with noise and noise reduction. As the project has only been started in the framework of the Capital of Culture 2009 it is too early to be able to report on any concrete effects.
4) To what extent do you think this project could be replicated in other cities?
Of course the aspect of inserting the principle of integrating the acoustic environment would be important for planning processes in cities all over Europe and worldwide. The “acoustic manifesto” was also spread and discussed in other cities and by (mostly cultural) initiatives. The results are of course only to be seen (and heard) in a mid-term perspective, nevertheless important for the improvement of urban environments.
Note : More information on this project can be found on the Acoustic City Website