I recorded my urban soundscape at the Lake Anne Village Center, in particular the main plaza area within the large U-shaped building. It is located officially on 1609 Washington Plaza W, Reston, VA 20190, and my time of recording was around 4:30 pm on Tuesday, March 20. I chose this spot because it is where the most public activity occurs on this site, with several small restaurants, businesses, a market, a church, shops, sculptures, and outdoor seating areas. During my observation, I heard a few small children playing around the art statues, a family walking the plaza trail, and a couple bike riders and joggers going through the site. There were a few geese swimming in the lake, trees swaying, and the bells hung above the storefronts kept ringing as it was very windy that day. Most of the sounds came from the periphery areas, and are typically not what you hear in a busy urban environment.
I am a person that enjoys sitting in quiet places to reflect and this collection of light noises invoked a strong sense of peacefulness. In my recording, you could hear a low humming noise that was a result of HVAC machines inside the equipment rooms adjacent to some of the businesses. You could also hear water flowing out of the sewer pipes along the lakes concrete retaining walls, which I observe may not be very healthy for the environment and water quality. The lack of human conversation indicate that the plaza does not receive a lot of customers during this time, and some businesses were closed at the time. Overall, the sounds interacted with one another, and no one sound was too loud that it drowned out the others.
The concrete architecture of the buildings at the edge of the plaza serve as a buffer to block out the unwanted noise of cars on the distant roadways. I spoke briefly with a lady who was walking her dog, and she told me that she enjoys going through here at this time because of the quietness and calmness of the area. This data helped me to learn more about the plaza, which the founder Robert E. Simon intended to be a place where the community of Lake Anne Village could come to relax, eat, play, and interact with the water. The culture seemed very relaxed, and the people I saw were an older crowd and some families with young children.
This aural data helped me to understand the background and setting of my site better. It will allow me to focus my research question and possible survey/interviews more on the factors and demographics of an older crowd. Also, hearing how people interacted with the public sculptures and art installations helped me to learn that they serve their purpose of fostering community as it was intended. Finally, the presence of the shops in the center help me to realize that the plaza is probably a totally different environment on weekends, and I will need consider these two different contexts when I continue to gather data towards my research question.
All photos: Juan Sian.
Check out the other soundwalks in this series, Sensemaking through Sound.