Spatial Sound

Cities of the Deaf

Reem Khorshid

Cities of the deaf comprises of a series of field recordings of various sonic elements from the city of Budapest. With urbanism as a centerpiece of the study, the project builds upon research on cities and urban planning, investigating and (re)creating communal listening experiences, aiming to immerse the average listener into the complex sonic realities of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

An imaginary public space is designed and populated with mixed and altered field recordings of the sounds of Budapest. Sonic substances such as ambience, streets, trams, cars, trees and people were combined and altered to generate the different sonic-spatial urban scenes experienced by deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

The installation comprises of three sound pieces (or modes) of the same mixed recordings. Each piece represents different sonic qualities of the city of Budapest as heard and experienced by three parties: 1. Deaf: a deaf person not using hearing assistive devices. 2. Ear: an average listener with normal hearing. 3. Implant: a deaf person with cochlear implants. While Ear is formed through mixing the different recordings, Deaf and Implant incorporate the same mixed recordings of Ear but with various audio effects to recreate the sonic realities of the hard of hearing and cochlear implant users. The sound installation is interactive in the sense that viewers can easily swift between the three pieces to be able to detect the differences between the various sonic modes.

Photo credit: Reem Khorshid

Below you can find converted web version of the piece and the interface that was provided to the audience.

Click on play/pause symbol to start the sound and then click on either the deaf symbol, average ear or cochlear implant to switch between the ways of listening.

Cities of the deaf is an informative piece and a continuous research of the artist, with a hope that more recordings of other cities can be recorded and mixed to document and study urban sounds. The purpose of this research is not limited to detecting and solving urban design problems, but to start a conversation and ask questions about the city. The project aims to tackle topics related to accessibility and urbanism, starting with immersing the public into the sonic realities of a deaf individual.

Reem Khorshid, a deaf architect and a cochlear implant user, hopes to continue developing this sound survey, documenting sounds from different sonic topographies of cities around the world. The study could also be considered an interdisciplinary contribution to the work of architects and planners, helping formulate sensory knowledge and develop concepts to be adopted to design accessible spaces.

Read her recent published work on hearing Cairo at:

The project was sponsored by Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah.

Photo credit : Reem Khorshid


(2021) [PODCAST]