The urban environment is an accidental assemblage of elements at any given instant—pavement, weather conditions, neon, dogs, pedestrians, shadows, trees, billboards, motorbikes, trash bins, steel and glass, etc.—that together constitute the unique, changing experience of the city. This activity consists entirely in drifting—what the Situationists called dérive—paying attention to spatial assemblages along the way while documenting the urban ambiance and its transitions (thresholds). In small groups, students were asked to observe and record the sights, sounds, smells, and other experiences of the city,
The assignment was to wander with no planned expectations for about two hours, ending at an unknown destination announced by text message—the rooftop of the Circle of Fine Arts. Students also received specific instructions along the way that required them to change their route. Here's a selection of their written observation notes, audio recordings of the soundscape, silent videos, and photographs of the accidental itineraries.
Take the first bus or train you see for four stops. Look for the closest tree and walk in the direction it seems to be pointing.
Listen for one minute. Then follow the loudest sound. Photograph it.
Walk toward someone using a phone. When you reach that spot, look for another person. Repeat five times.
Document one thing old, one thing new, one smell and one blue.
Soundscapes in Madrid
- metro rides --> hot and stuffy, tons of people, but little noise. Every person sits quietly either staring at their phones, reading, or looking at other people. But the lack of noise is truly surprising for the amount of people inside.
Smells were noted when they were at extremes. One smell noted was when we passed a café or restaurant ... However, on the other end, there was very repulsive smell noted specifically from the trash that we passed causing us to change our course.