Soundscape Digital Placemaking


An opportunity to apply for a full-time PhD in the Faculty of the Environment and Technology. The studentship will be funded or part-funded by the Faculty of Environment and Technology: Ref 2022-JAN-FET11.

The expected start date of this studentship is January 2022.

The closing date for applications is 14 October 2021.

About the studentship

Every city has a unique sonic quality. However, current urban design practices rarely consider the sounding environment resulting in auditory social deprivation. What is known as 'Quiet' is a privileged ambient character, seldom afforded to low-income urban patches, adding to social stresses, and compounding social deprivation. In 2014, the International Standard Organisation (12913 Part 1) defined soundscape as “the acoustic environment as perceived or experienced by and understood by a person or people, in context." Although the defined contextual elements are social, psychological, and physiological built (and natural) environmental conditions that position the sounding environment central to placemaking design, it lacks the architectural design research. 

This point of design research is where qualitative and quantitative factors intersect. Fortunately, the fast acceleration of computation design methods enables designers to systematically integrate what was once considered ephemeral design factors through techniques like Machine Learning (ML). Both complex and interconnected issues, Soundscape and Digital Placemaking Design processes, are exemplary candidates to highlight the strength of ML modelling, where a tool, similar to an experienced designer, can learn and gain experience through an iterative process.

Soundscape Digital Placemaking is a paradigm shift resulting from the recent and simultaneous maturity of transdisciplinary domains, including soundscape, psychoacoustics, placemaking, pervasive-media, and computational design. The project aims to investigate:

  1. What are the critical social urban sonic stressor factors?
  2. What is the nature of this interconnectedness with other urban design factors?
  3. What are the placemaking design methods suitable to adjust these undesirable ambient factors?
  4. What are the Qualitative Data Analysis methods suitable to codify these factors into an algorithm?
  5. What is the suitable ML modelling technique for building a computer-aided design tool to better integrate sounds placemaking design into urban decisions?

Bristol is a unique city with a distinctive sonic character, social make-up, urban fabric, and geological morphology, making it a perfect testbed for this research. A number of boroughs will be selected as case studies, where the research collaborates with the local council and citizens to identify the place soundscape stressors (remove) and heritage (emphasis).

The impact of the interconnected topic of Soundscape Digital Placemaking is pervasive and indelible; it fosters social justice, capitalises on local community assets, and in return promotes health wellbeing. Further, designing the sounding environment affects biodiversity and the micro-and macroclimate, which reciprocally are also social stressors.

Cross-disciplinary PhD projects are only successful when the student has support for each interconnected topic, the team covers the central scope of computational soundscape design (Dr Merate Barakat), and related topics: quantitative methodologies of Machine Learning (Dr Anas Lila), quantitative methods of 2) placemaking (Mr Mike Devereaux), 3) wellbeing (Dr Louis Rice), and Sound Ecology (Professor Teresa Dillon). Each staff member on the supervisory team has a specific speciality and academic network, necessary for the PhD student to have a focused and well-directed investigation. The integration within this network will help the student quickly access information and grow research networks during the studies ensuring a solid start for an academic career.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email  Dr Merate Barakat (


The studentship is available from January 2022 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend of £15, 609 per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years.


Applicants must have a good first degree or, ideally, will have a Masters. The studentship is available both for UK and overseas applicants.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted, use the reference number 2022-JAN-FET11.

Supporting documentation: You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form. 

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 14 October 2021.

Further information

It is expected that interviews will take place on the weeks commencing 1 and 8 November 2021. If you have not heard from us by 28 October 2021, we thank you for your application but, on this occasion, you have not been successful.

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