As lead-artists for a new urban development in Warwick Bar, Birmingham, we were invited by MADE (Midlands Architecture and the Designed Environment) to work closely with Architects Kinetic AIU in the development of the masterplan for the area.
We began the project by undertaking a survey of the site from the perspective of sound. Planners and architects have traditionally surveyed their sites focusing primarily on topography, while also acknowledging its social and historical context. Acoustical concerns, if they are considered at all, are rarely addressed outside the context of the most utilitarian issues of noise limitation and isolation. Our survey begins with the premise that soundscapes have a more important role in our urban geographies and that the sustainability of any future development is dependent on a rigorous understanding of the sonic character of the site, its history and potential for further intervention.
The Warwick Bar site itself is of considerable historical significance to the industrial development of the city. It is surrounded on three sides by water; the River Rea and the intersection of the Digbeth Branch Canal and the Grand Union Canal. Much of the site’s sonic history is now lost and undervalued, but just as listed buildings are protected by the state other aspects of the site’s physical history can be considered ‘assets’ by enlightened developers. Our primary role in the initial stage of the development was raising the status of the history of the sounds of the site to a level where they might actively influence the development of the masterplan. As part of our research into the site we used soundwalking techniques and worked with noise mapping from conventional EU noise maps to the sound maps developed by the sound ecology movement. The project was featured as a case study in the CABE publication on PROJECT scheme (see documents).
Our involvement in the Warwick Bar masterplan was instigated by MADE with funds from the PROJECT fund, distributed by Public Arts South West and supported by CABE (Commission for the Built Environment) and A&B (Arts and Business).
Download Warwick Bar Interim Report