Listening as Social Act #1 – Población Obrera Unión

Research Project for Act of Listening - Tsonami Festival 2017
Tuned City
Valparaíso, Chile
René Rissland (D) + Cynthia Conrads (CL) + Florian Tuercke (D)

“Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act. Hearing is always occurring, most of the time subconsciously. In contrast, listening is the interpretative action taken by the listener in order to understand and potentially make meaning out of the sound waves.”    Roland Barthes

The act of listening demands a quality of paying attention and a willingness to explore, to contribute and to reflect, without any defence, without any barrier.

That´s how we started in Valparaiso. And what we found by listening attentively to the background noises of the City, was not the big harmonic symphony of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was in fact the miraculous sound-potpourri of everyday-life.

By drifting along the nearly endless stairways, the main streets and inofficial paths of Valpo, we have learned a lot about the intensive way of living in this vibrant City, about its informal way of space production and the use of public spaces. But the public spaces of a City are also defined by the semipublic and private spaces behind the facades. Sensitive Listening opened a lot of doors to us.

We found very interesting typologies of multi-family-houses, forming autonomous and collective organisms within their neighborhoods. In these organisms Listening is a Social Act.

Población Obrera Unión is a three stories volume organized around an empty core. The typology has the appearance of a big resonator box. This was the first workers housing building in the country. The Courtyard is a social platform for the Inhabitants. Children play football, People meet each other. On the last floor there is a big community terrace with one of the best views over Valparaiso. We found very interesting that many apartment doors were wide open, children played on the access balconies and visited each other. The balcony became an extension of the living room, the own kitchen a meeting place for all the neighbors. Borders blurred, fading beyond recognition. In the beginning we felt like a stranger. But the longer you lingered and opened your ears, the more you got aware of the fundamental vibrations and social background noises in this organism. Suddenly we were absorbed by the sponge and found ourselfs sitting in the living room of one of the families, drinking tea, talking about the fears and worries of the residants, about rules of living together. Rules that do not really exist, but informally they resonate in the minds and hearts. All of them were excited by the same resonant frequency. And when parts of the system get out of synch, they were retuned by the organism itself.