Public Commons - Places to cultivate community
Parks, plazas, restaurants, malls and promenades are all places where community comes together for the collective expression of cultural health. While public spaces are places to "see and be seen," without sound a public common would serve little purpose. The soundscape may include the free exchange of ideas and leisurely conversation, but the sound profile of a successful public area is far more complex: it includes sounds of the young and the aged; the feminine and the masculine; passion, exuberance, quietude and anger; wild and domesticated animals; the spiritual and the profane; water, wind, earth and fire - in essence a blend all of the elements that comprise the culture from which the commons springs:
"...Parks and public commons have been such a vital element of community in an urban setting that it has provided material for countless books, articles, movies, poems, songs, doctoral theses, plays and criticisms. Every time an outdoor concert is reviewed, a museum exhibit is curated, a spring wedding is planned or a picnic is talked about - the park is generating it's legacy in our culture. The parks are truly the breathing areas for civilization - where we can take our shoes off, lay down in the grass and be cradled by the songs of birds and the laughter of play. The thick carpet of grass and curtains of foliage in the trees absorbing the rumble and hiss of the surrounding city. The sounds of the park can provide respite from the river of noise that our consumerist technocracy generates. The rhythmic sway and squeaks of swings, the splashing and gurgling of fountains and ponds and the exuberant pitch and emotional pleasure of humans at play all shift and break the continuum of noise from our clock driven society.
"The park is where we can get an unobstructed view of our community, and where we can hear what our community is saying without having to ask questions. It is where we can come in contact with new ideas without having to go looking for them. Because it provides ample space for us to set our margins of safety around ourselves, it is also the window through which we can peer into our own culture and see if there are others we want to meet or know..."
"...Sound "sculpting" with water sounds from small fountains and waterfalls is not an uncommon practice in cities worldwide and throughout history. Many edifices in Moorish Spain such as the Alhambra were fitted with running water, not only to keep the climate pleasant, but also to provide the other benefits that running water has in an environment; the refreshing of the air and the cleansing sounds of water..."
"...We set ourselves up to be bound together by these sounds. The Council Fires, the public baths, the marketplace and the houses of worship are all assuring community environments where the preponderance of information is conveyed with the elemental sounds of fire, water, earth and air..."
"...A common feature of all but the most modern towns is the central plaza or town square - a place that Anthony Lawlor in The Temple in the House calls "The Silent Hub." It is a place where the expressions of the individual wills of architects and city planners are set aside, but it is far from silent; it is a place where the collective expression of the community metabolizes; people strut and promenade, discuss and play, observe, pontificate and worship and most decidedly they do not work. In many cities the very center of this location is occupied by a fountain - a symbol of creation - a fount of water from the earth. In others an obelisk stands - a fiery phallus of aspiration reaching to the sky. In Moslem cities this place is often occupied by the Mosque. In other cities the central hub is occupied by some other icon of cultural importance: in the Persian city of Ecbatana, built in 715 B.C.E. the center of a town of seven concentric circles was occupied by the treasury; in Freisland, Holland, the center of a town is often occupied by a statue of a cow..."