Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sense and the City

Life in 18th century cities. From City Lab:
People in the 18th century, like today, tended to pay attention to their sensations only when those sensations were particularly good or particularly bad. That means that in order to access the routine, normal, and accepted sensory worlds of the past, one really has to read between the lines. With that in mind, the most common sensory observations that I encountered fell into two main categories: complaints about urban noise, and rapturous descriptions of new foods and beverages. Cities were growing by leaps and bounds in the 18th century, and the architecture and layout of Paris had developed haphazardly in response to these quickly changing demographics. Acoustics were not a central planning concern. Buildings were tall and streets were narrow, trapping ambient noise. Artisans clustered together, making the heavy ringing of hammers, calls of vendors, and noises of animals thick and concentrated. Cobblestones were uneven, meaning that wheels and hooves made a clatter, and walls were not built to keep out neighbors’ din. (Read more.)

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