Designers of tranquil spaces aided by university research

Landscape architects and planners could benefit from new research into how visual and noise elements combine to affect the tranquillity of public spaces.

Experts from the University of Bradford have been developing a practical tool for the design of tranquil spaces in urban and rural environments. Presenting the research at last week's Tranquil Spaces conference, organised by the Greater London Authority, Dr Robert Pheasant said the project attempted to quantify the effect of sound and visuality.

"We have developed a practical engineering tool which can be used in the design and management of external spaces," he added.

As well as photography and video of sites including urban green spaces, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Chatsworth House, subjects were asked to assess 32-second audio clips.

According to Professor Greg Watts, the work - part of the university's Tranquil Spaces Project - will assist in the design of relatively tranquil spaces in urban areas blighted by transportation noise.

The conference, held at London Zoo on 9 October, was a chance for local-authority representatives to examine how public spaces could retain their attractiveness for residents as an escape from urban life.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson endorsed the drive to achieve more tranquil spaces across the capital and said it was a priority for him to "reduce noise and promote quiet spaces".

"We want to have places where people can go to feel calm and quiet," he said. "That is why we have embraced a programme of planting street trees and organised the Priority Parks programme. We intend to persist in that with the budgets available to us."

Natural England board member Pam Warhurst added: "We are trying to understand the importance of landscape so we can influence decision makers to invest sensibly. This should help us to make (our) case more forcefully."

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