Listening and ReProducing via Soundwalk and Research

Listening and ReProducing via Soundwalk and Research

Listening and ReProducing the Tetragon of „Rathaus” and „Schottentor” via Soundwalk and Research

by Anamarija Batista & Szilvia Kovács

Starting point for our walk frame two interrelated research questions: “How do pedestrians construct their auditory space?” and “ What kind of practices could make strollers aware to listen and reproduce those auditory space?” In order to explore it, we choose and walk the area around the Rathaus (Viennese City Council) and Schottentor (here i.a. University of Vienna is located).

Our body moves through the space.

We defined the route as well as the aim: listening to our city environment and the attempt to describe and to reflect on experience of the given acoustic situation. Furthermore our interest focuses on the visions connected to the auditory space and their relation to the past and current urban discourses, political economic aims and strategies as well as different approaches (eg. artistic methods) to the sensory and bodily experience of the urban auditory spaces.

Here you can read an extract about one of our experiences and reflections.

Experiment: Around Rathaus (Vienna City Hall)

As a part of the Ringstraße, Viennese Rathaus was built in the 19th century (1872 – 1883) by Friedrich von Schmidt. At the bloom time of historicism, at the former parade ground, von Schmidt creates a neo gothic public building modeled on gothic Bruessel City Council. Rathaus is surrounded by a park, a public open space on its front side (Rathausplatz). At the back side of the Rathaus there is another green area (Florianipark) which pass on to very busy traffic street, called Landesgerichtsstraße. The “inside” life of the Rathaus building is enclosed by arcade corridor. This covered space, in a way the zone which connects inside and outside, has his own acoustic quality.

Experiencing the arcade corridor of Rathaus

Here I hear my own movements, the sound of the falling forks is clear and echoed, the presence of the body is appreciable. Here the single sounds are hearable. Not just my body, but also my own voice become a significant volume and articulation. It is possible to concentrate here.

Arcades at Vienna City Hall. Image by: Kovács, Sz., 2015

Walking through Rathausplatz

Looking at the monument for Strauss and Lanner (Franz Seifert and Robert Oerley, 1905, bronze, relief). The composers seems to talk, while in their background couples are waltzing in a 19th-century Viennese ball.

Connotation of this atmosphere, the smell of the old dusty ball dresses.


Park at Vienna City Hall. Image by: Kovács, Sz., 2015

Several people are sitting, laying, reading or talking in the row of the park banks. At this corner of the green area we are surrounded by the traffic noise of Stadiongasse: trams, cars, motorbikes are passing by loudly around the clock. Time to time I catch bird chatter in the crowns, and some insects’ buzz around rotted leaves beside the drinking fountain. The park is clean, kept, but I rather wish for vivacity then correctness at the moment, for example gravel instead of asphalt. I miss kicking pebbles and also their gritting under my feet, so my own sound print in this motor humming.

I keep walking and try to focus and deepen.

Arriving to Florianipark and Landesgerichtsstraße

It is difficult to hear anything that could break through the loud and monotonous traffic noise. I decided to create sound signals consciously. I am knocking on candelabras: cast iron-types sound ‘basso’, aluminium-types are more shrill. By the underground station of U2-Rathaus via Seestadt I see some blue berries felt to the ventage of the metro. I pick them up and throw back to the rooftop of this metal box. The berries are so soft, they are toneless.

Surfaces around the Vienna City Hall. Image by: Kovács, Sz., 2015

Soon I hear the looping conveyor belt of the escalator by the metro entrance. I start to hear it on halfway to the metro access building. My ears sense like the sound comes out, turns right and follows the glass wall of portal cage and meets me in an exact point. After stepping here and forth I found here the border of escalator’s sound cloud. I mark it with a pin-stripe.

Towards the subway stop at Vienna City Hall. Image by: Kovács, Sz., 2015

Leaving the intervention spot to the direction of Felderstraße

I found my next immersive moment just later and accidentally again, after walking round the Rathaus and reach Felderstrasse. The facade is under renovation, the dust caused by the construction covers the pavement gently, which makes it a bit slippery. My shoe sole are sliding, right and links, my toes are almost grabbing the center of the cube: feels like twisting. Finally I am really active, can break the routine of my steps and listen to their friction … .

Thinking about the sound walk and research around Rathaus

The Rathaus area we have been walking disclose the complexity of the build space and its historical overlappings. Built in the 19th century as the symbol of the ascending middle class Rathaus offers a specific acoustic quality, which lead to specific experience of the spatial. The traffic noise, the heritage of the modernism and specificity of modern cities is shield by the park and green areas and by time overtoned with the sounds of Rathaus events (eg. public film projections, concerts, etc.), which are taking place almost over the whole year.

Rathausplatz in front of Vienna City Hall. Image by: Kovács, Sz., 2015

Thinking about the architecture and built environment in a sense of an enabling space in interaction with humans, non-humans and objects as well as with the environmental occasions produces situations, atmospheres and actions, opens up possibilities to reflect on the space in terms of its variable sensor layers and not just in terms of his aesthetics and building structure.


Anamarija Batista, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Szilvia Kovács, Vienna University of Technology
recipients of a Doc-team Fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences


Anamarija Batista & Szilvia Kovács won a Walking Visionary Jury Prize with their project “Listening and ReProducing“.