Contemporary Art - Science - Urbanism - Digital Culture

The auditory legibility of urban habitats and their atmospheres.
Symposium on auditory urban research

by and with Sam Auinger, Peter Cusack and Dietmar Offenhuber as well as Gernot Böhme, Maren Hartmann, Johanna Just, Sarah Lappin, Juhani Pallasmaa, Peter Payer, Birgit Schneider, Holger Schulze.

In English.

In the mediatized spaces of daily life, we have become accustomed to understanding information as something abstract, explicitly coded, and symbolically readable. Beyond the digital representations that surround us, however, the city presents itself primarily sensually and physically. The sound of spaces, places, and squares creates atmospheres that often affect us unconsciously but are usually difficult to articulate. The symposium and workshop will explore the auditory atmospheres of Berlin, and how practices and cultural techniques of listening can help us understand places and critically reflect on urban processes.

With the symposium, the German Academic Exchange Service aims to provide space for international and interdisciplinary discourse to reveal a new legibility of the city. Current and former DAAD grantees in the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, musicology, design, psychology and environmental sciences will have the opportunity to combine an experimental extension of their research approaches with urban practice.


Sam Auinger is a Berlin-based sound thinker, composer and sound artist. With his colleague Bruce Odland, he explores the theme of “auditory perspective” through large-scale public sound installations. Auinger collaborates with urban planners and architects and talks about urbanism, architecture, media, and the senses at international symposia. He has been a visiting professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, an associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a lecturer at the Art, Culture and Technology Program at MIT. In 1997 he was a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

Gernot Böhme is a philosopher and former professor of philosophy at the TU Darmstadt. Since 2005 he has directed the Institute for the Practice of Philosophy in Darmstadt. Böhme has come to the fore primarily with his work on aesthetics, natural philosophy, the philosophy of the body, and the philosophy of technology, and states a New Humanism in architecture; the human being as user must become the point of reference in building, he says. “For the experience of the spatial structure, one has to be physically present oneself – it is at most possible to report on it linguistically. If you engage with it, however, then the meaningfulness – and thus the historicity – of a place can become an issue.”

Maren Hartmann is a professor of communication and media sociology at the Berlin University of the Arts. Her doctoral research focused on early cyberspace and the user metaphors situated within it (published under the title: “Technologies and Utopias. The cyberflaneur and the experience of being online”). This was followed by work on media appropriation, especially the concept of domestication, and on the question of mobile media, urban contexts and materialities.

Johanna Just is co-founder of the experimental architecture studio “The Bakerloos” and lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. She currently works part-time as a designer and researcher at Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg Ltd, where she contributes to installations and artworks for such museums as Centre Pompidou and Milan Design Triennial. She is interested in exploring the potential of process-oriented design methods for building culture. In her senior thesis, she developed a new architectural language based on associations to challenge existing concepts.

Sarah Lappin is an architect who teaches theory and design at Queens University Belfast. Lappin is co-founder of the All-Ireland Architectural Research Group and chair of the Architectural Humanities Research Association Steering Group. Her research interests include architecture and identity, modernism and its local manifestations in Ireland as well as 20th century architectural history. In addition, Dr. Lappin co-directs the research group “Recomposing the City: Sonic Art & Urban Architectures” with Dr. Gasia Ouzounian, which explores how collaborations between sound artists and architects can lead to new analysis and transformation of urban environments.

Dietmar Offenhuber is a professor of Art + Design and Public Policy at Northeastern University. He holds a PhD in Urban Planning from MIT and master’s degrees from the MIT Media Lab and TU Vienna. His research focuses on the relationship between design, technology, and governance. Dietmar is the author of the award-winning monograph “Waste is Information” (MIT Press), works as a consultant for the United Nations, and has published books on Urban Data, Accountability Technologies and Urban Informatics.

Juhani Pallasmaa is a Finnish architect, former professor of architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, former director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and author of numerous articles on cultural philosophy, environmental psychology and architectural and art theory. In his 1996 book, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, he emphasizes the importance of experience in architectural production, which is often neglected in practice today.

Peter Payer is a historian, urban researcher and publicist. He runs an office for urban history and works as a curator at the Technical Museum Vienna. His lecture will focus on the social treatment of soundscapes in major European cities from the end of the 19th century until today. Starting from the radically changing soundscape, he shows the intensification of the noise discourse and analyzes the impact on the development and design of the city. A fundamental ambivalence towards the new acoustic environment is revealed. This presents itself as a complex phenomenon, which paradigmatically deals with questions of urban development, cultural and civilization criticism, but also social and economic conflicts.

Birgit Schneider is Professor of Media Ecology at the University of Potsdam in the European Media Studies program. Previously, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, then a Senior Fellow at the International College for Cultural Technology Research in Weimar. Her thematic focus includes climate imagery and visual climate change communication, questions of media ecology and media aesthetics, and the art and media history of sound and vision.

Holger Schulze is a cultural scientist and professor of musicology at the University of Copenhagen. Schulze was co-founder and from 2006 to 2009 first director of the Sound Studies degree program at the Berlin University of the Arts, as well as visiting professor of sound anthropology and sound ecology. His research areas are literary, musical and art history of aleatorics and the relationship between intimacy and “mediality” in culture.

Credit: Stefanie Rau

Sound Urban Design


1.00 pm welcome and introduction with
Dr. Birgit Klüsener, Director of the DAAD Scholarship Department
Dr. Sven Sappelt, CLB Berlin
Prof. Dr. Dietmar Offenhuber & Sam Auinger

1.15 pm Prof. Dr. Gernot Böhme: „Atmospheres“

2.00 pm Dr. Sarah Lappin: “The Sound-Considered City: Reflections and Possibilities“

2.45 pm Dr. Peter Payer: "Between Noise and Euphony: Urban Sounds from a Historical Perspective" (in German).

3.30 pm coffee break

3.45 pm Prof. Juhani Pallasmaa: “The integrated experience – orchestrating architecture through our neglected senses“

4.30 pm Prof. Dr. Birgit Schneider: “Environments are Invisible. Listening to 5G Atmospheres“

5.15 pm Prof. Dr. Maren Hartmann: “The sensory perceptions of missing shelter: observations in urban space“

5.45 pm coffee break

6.00 pm Johanna Just: “Sensing Spaces – Unlocking the city with Cultural Probes“

6.30 pm Prof. Dr. Dietmar Offenhuber & Sam Auinger

6.45 pm Prof. Dr. Holger Schulze: “Apparatus, Personae & Affects: Scenarios of an Urban Anthropology of Sound“

7.30 pm reception