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Not just pretty; landscape art that cuts airport noise pollution in half


Noise is a major bugbear for both airports and the public and stands only to worsen as housing developments encroach closer and closer to runways. Worse, there’s evidence that noise is more than just annoying. The World Health Organisation has suggests that noise can be linked to heart disease and could even eventually kill you. Some airports however, are now exploring new ways to curb noise pollution; land art that disrupts sound waves while doubling up as a park.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is leading the way in turning one of Europe’s fourth largest travel hubs into a piece of living art. They have turned the famously flat terrain of the Netherlands into a rolling pattern of ridges that nestle in around their largest runway. When planes take off, these ridges absorb and deflect the noise of the engines on the ground. It effectively cuts in half the noise for surrounding suburbs.

It all came about when researchers from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), discovered that areas close to the airport where the farmers were ploughing the fields were significantly quieter than areas that weren’t ploughed. They entrusted Paul de Kort, landscape artist, with designing a solution based on the research findings. He designed a pattern of noise deflecting ridges – built with GPS-guided robot excavators – that intercept sounds waves and deflects them skyward. It’s called Buitenschot Land Art Park, and is a tremendous success story, but Schiphol Airport want to go further. They have committed to reducing noise levels by tenfold (10 decibels), with this park gets them halfway there. Next phases are planned to nearly double the size of the grooved landscape.
It’s an inspiring story of research leading to novel solutions. This practical art work is transforming quality of life for neighbourhoods near Schiphol Airport and is already inspiring other airports. Melbourne and London Gatwick are following the lead and constructing similar sound barriers.