Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Listening to Japanese Gardens: An Autoethnographic Study on the Soundscape Action Design Tool

Cerwén, Gunnar


Landscape architecture and urban design disciplines could benefit from soundscape thinking in order to enhance experiential qualities in their projects, though the available tools are not yet fully developed nor tested. The present research aims to substantiate one of the available tools, Soundscape Actions, and thereby increase the understanding of soundscape design. The study focuses on the Japanese garden tradition, which is known for high preference ratings, tranquil qualities and consideration for sound and other sensory experiences. An autoethnographic approach was used to conduct field studies in 88 gardens in Japan, the majority of which are located in urban areas with potential noise disturbance. The studies are based on observations in situ, supported by video documentation, field recordings and readings of sound pressure levels (SPL). A total of 19 Soundscape Actions are described and discussed in the paper. They are structured around three main categories: localisation of functions, reduction of unwanted sounds and introduction of wanted sounds. The study provides concrete examples of how the tool can be used to enhance tranquil qualities, particularly focusing on small green spaces in dense urban settings, involving the (simultaneous) reduction of unwanted sounds and enhancement of wanted sounds/effects. The autoethnographic approach allowed for the phenomenological perspective to be brought forward, which contributed new insights regarding the design tool. The findings are discussed in relation to health and soundscape research, focusing on multisensory experiences, masking strategies and potentials for implementation and future developments of the design tool.


soundscape design; sonic experience; tranquillity; noise; garden therapy; landscape architecture; Japanese gardens; autoethnography; soundscape actions

Published in

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
2019, Volume: 16, number: 23, article number: 4648

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Occupational Therapy
    Landscape Architecture

    Publication Identifiers


    Permanent link to this page (URI)