“Once a soundmark has been identified, it deserves to be protected, for soundmarks make the acoustic life of a community unique.”

R. Murray Schafer, 1977

The Soundscape of Istanbul project was conducted by Pınar Çevikayak Yelmi during her doctoral research at Koç University supervised by Assoc. Prof. Nina Ergin, Assoc. Prof. Sertaç Kakı and Assoc. Prof. Asım Evren Yantaç.

The Soundscape of Istanbul project approaches everyday traditions and daily urban life from a sonic perspective and aims to increase public awareness of cultural sounds by means of exhibitions. Sounds are inevitable parts of our daily lives and our cultures. Also, sounds are of great importance in terms of intangible cultural heritage. Sonic cultural heritage is twice endangered due to physical characteristics of sound itself and dynamic structure of intangible culture. Sounds that are not protected or archived get lost forever. In a dynamic city such as Istanbul, daily life and urban sounds change rapidly. Therefore, it is significant and necessary to protect cultural soundmarks of the city as expeditiously as possible to sustain cultural identity and cultural memory.

In this project, sound symbols of Istanbul were determined according to an online survey and interviews. These characteristic urban sounds were recorded with professional equipment throughout the year 2015. A specific metadata system was developed for cultural sounds and the collection of “The Soundscape of Istanbul” was made publicly accessible at Koç University Suna Kıraç Library. Thus, the collection lays background which future soundscapes and the recreation of past soundscapes may, then, be added as well.

In order to expand this sound collection, “Soundsslike” project (soundsslike.com) was initiated. In this project, an interactive platform was developed which anyone can upload their own sound recordings. The main aim of the project is to raise public awareness of urban and cultural sounds and to protect these sounds as a collective work.

The Soundscape of Istanbul project became associate partners with Europeana Sounds and the collection can also be accessible under Europeana Sounds portal. The project was also presented as an interactive installation in Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (RCAC) and by means of an experiential exhibition in Studio-X Istanbul.

The Soundscape of Istanbul project, besides being first of its kind, is very significant as it may lead to further multidisciplinary research as sonic culture is deeply dependent on various factors such as sociological, political, and economic conditions.


Pınar Çevikayak Yelmi was born in Istanbul in 1985. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the department of Industrial Design at Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Türkiye, 2008) and her Master’s degree from the department of Visual Communication Design at Politecnico di Milano (Milano, Italy, 2012). Her studies on sounds of Istanbul started during her Master’s education. She designed an unconventional guide system including a website, a smart phone application and a sonic souvenir which aims to guide through urban sounds. It was her challenge to design visual interfaces for auditory urban experiences.

Having discovered the richness of cultural sounds in Istanbul, she decided to conduct further research under a PhD program in the department of Design, Technology, Society at Koç University (Istanbul, Türkiye, 2012-2017). Since “The Soundscape of Istanbul” project is located at the intersection of soundscape studies, intangible cultural heritage, museum studies, sensory studies, interaction design, experience design, exhibition design and participatory design, it suits this multidisciplinary program very well. She worked with Assoc. Prof. Nina Ergin from Archeology and History of Art Department. With this project, she aimed to explore the culture and everyday life of the city from a sonic perspective, to collect the urban sonic values and to archive them as intangible cultural heritage elements in Koç University Suna Kıraç Library Digital Collections.

This very sound collection, being first of its kind in Türkiye, was also shared with Europeana Sounds which makes efforts towards protecting Europe’s sound heritage. She also designed exhibitions in order to raise public awareness of the significance of the sounds of Istanbul.

Finally, using her background and education, she initiated the “Soundsslike” project to expand this sound collection by public contribution. Soundsslike project is a crowdsourced sound map which encourages people to record and upload their own sound recordings for protecting urban sounds as a collective work. She makes efforts for this project to become a global action towards collecting cultural sounds and creating a comprehensive archive of how world sounds like.