Posted August 19th 2018 at 11:57 am by
in Sensemaking through Sound

Sensemaking through Sound: Wangari Gardens, Washington, DC

Wangari Gardens: there_s_a_bird_in_the _tree

This soundscape was taken at Wangari Gardens in the Park View neighborhood of Washington, DC, USA, around 2:45pm on Sunday, March 18. I was located nearest to the intersection of Kenyon St NW and Park Pl NW. In the recording, I hear layers of birds chirping in the mid-range, a steady stream of cars in the background, blustery wind disruptions in the foreground, and a regular series of beeps from a traffic light indicating safe intersection crossing (initially in the background, but later in the foreground as traffic and wind stop). These are all the sounds I noticed as I made the recording. After listening to the recording many times with headphones on and my eyes closed, I noticed a few additional sounds. Around seconds 0:12-0:13, there is a sliding sound in the foreground. Since no one else was near as I made the recording, I imagine I must have made the sound by turning my body. Additionally, I hear rustling around 1:12-1:13, and at 1:41 through to the end of the recording, none of which I noticed while recording. These sound like a bird or squirrel in the grass.

Wangari Gardens: cars

No one passed by as I took the soundscape recording, so I am left to my own reflections on the sounds. The soundscape I took creates a place that is at odds with itself, both oasis and roadway median. This garden provides a habitat for birds, but is located in the center of many busy intersections adjacent to Washington Hospital Center. Birds chirping make me feel peaceful, but these chirps were accompanied by sounds that make me feel stressed (speeding cars, traffic intersection crossing beeps), and physically uncomfortable (blustery wind). For some, this garden is barely noticeable, something they pass by while on their way somewhere else, while for others, it is a place to relax, garden, congregate, or walk through. I do not like driving and hate busy roads, and I wish people spent less time on their way to other places and more time outside. I wish underused roads would be restored to natural habitats. These aspects of who I am clearly inform my interpretation of the soundscape.

Wangari Gardens: safe_Xing_beeps

What I gathered in sound informs my research question because it highlights the location of the garden and adaptations to the built environment, both of which influence who participates in the garden. As I noted, the garden is in the center of a few busy intersections, essentially on the edge of the Park View neighborhood, so not every resident would have reason to pass through the space. This means that additional efforts to recruit garden participants may be required by garden coordinators. Hearing the street-crossing beeps makes me wonder if this pedestrian-friendly element has been added after the garden was created. There would not have been much reason to be crossing the busy streets beforehand as it is the last place heading east before the fenced-off hospital center and continuing stretch of busy road.

All photos: Lauren Pepe.

Check out the other soundwalks in this series, Sensemaking through Sound.

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