Architects, designers, planners and all those associated professions often describe the “image” of the cities, neighborhoods, and regions. The overwhelmingly visual nature of place-based discussion crowds out other sensory experiences. The architectural demands for aesthetic appeal would seem to leave no room for acoustic experiences. Nevertheless, the fields of sound design and acoustic ecology exist on the outer edges of urbanism and architecture.
Aside from the science and technology surrounding opera halls and recording studios little is understood about how sounds interact with physical spaces. A few intrepid recorders have put their soundscape samples online. The largest collection of natural sounds (mostly animals) is Cornell’s Macaulay Library. (I can’t get this to work on my work computer, but perhaps you can!) SoundTransit provides a way to listen to a trip around the world. Dozens of other websites also provide recordings (scroll to soundwalks and soundmarks)
At least one architect embraces the role of sound. “Using lasers, heart monitors and other technological gadgets, Christopher Janney explores the nature of creativity and the origin of the soul.” (Listen to the article at NPR, ~5 min.) Adding sound-features to buildings could have significant benefits for the blind, too. The technology to process visual images into patterns of sound are already available. It would certainly be an interesting treat if the design and planning community could get out of its visual-cortex and mold spaces around different methods of sensation.