Episode 1 – Musicians for urban planning: valuing the subconscious individual experiences in the city

Last changed: 30 August 2023
Series 2 - Episode 1

This is the first episode of season two. Lecturer Amanda Gabriel, today's host, explores the fascinating world of collaborative and transdisciplinary research where we value the experiences of individuals in the city. We visit the location at PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity-Research-Laboratory) in London, and we are joined by professor Nick Tyler, the laboratory's creator and director.

Much of the way we design cities and develop urban dynamics is heavily reliant on assumptions regarding the movement of larger groups of people, transport, and cars. While these strategies have resulted in functional cities, they often do not reflect the needs of individuals. There are many ways in which our current urban design practices fail to account for the impact of the city on the health and well-being of the population. For example, inadequate living conditions and differences in access to space across socio-economic areas, insufficient quality and access to green spaces, exposure to noise pollution, urban heat islands, and a lack of spaces for walking, cycling, and restorative activities all contribute to a less healthy urban environment. To create cities that are more sympathetic to the health of every individual, we still need to develop a deeper and more complex understanding of the experiences at a micro-level and the different conscious and subconscious processes of perception.

In order to understand these interactions, PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) at UCL, London, is a one-of-a-kind research facility that creates life-sized environments such as town squares, railway stations, or high streets and manipulates various environmental factors, such as sound, light, and scents, to investigate how individuals perceive and interact with their surroundings.

The PEARL facility
The PEARL lab

In this episode, Professor Nick Tyler explores:

  • how the PEARL research supports the understanding of pedestrian/walker needs in the city
  • what we know of how individuals interact with their everyday environments from an evolutionary perspective
  • how this knowledge may be used to gain insights for an urban planning transformation.

Listen to the episode on:





Glossary & references

Environmental psychology: an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the transactions and interrelationships between individuals and groups with their surroundings.

Individual differences: characteristics, preferences, and understandings that distinguish one individual or group from others. In this podcast, these characteristics have included different needs and preferences in natural environments, and we have discussed neurodiversity and autism.

Intra-actions: a new term referred by Nick Tyler in the interviews to replace “interactions”, that proposes agency not as the property of the individuals, but as the dynamic forces between the bodies, affordances and individuals with each other. 

Learn more about PEARL here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/person-environment-activity-research-laboratory/welcome-pearl

Vigliocco, G., Convertino, L., De Felice, S., Gregorians, L., Kewenig, V., Mueller, M. A. E., … Spiers, H. (2023, April 3). Ecological Brain: Reframing the Study of Human Behaviour and Cognition. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/zr4nm

van den Bosch, M., & Bird, W. (2018). Oxford Textbook of Nature and Public Health: Oxford University Press. https://academic.oup.com/book/31752


Co-producers: Amanda Gabriel and Hannah Arnett

Host and editor: Amanda Gabriel

Peer review: Gunnar Cerwén and Hannah Arnett

All vignettes and sound logos are Creative Commons or Royalty Free with revised license free to be used in here:

"Dream Wave" by Rose Alexander-George

Royalty Free logos and music by Lexin_Music via Pixabay