to control the soundscape around the park. The traffic that passed on all sides could still be heard. But the project dampened it greatly, leaving it quiet enough for families to talk unhindered.
Nauener Platz's revamp won that year's European Soundscape Award, administered by the European Environmental Agency (EEA). In fact, German noise abatement measures are far more manifest than in European neighbours as anyone who has sped along the autobahn between giant Lärmschutzwände (noise protection walls) can testify. Germans, it seems, are more sensitive to noise pollution, which the EEA says costs Europe $45bn (£29.5bn) and 61,000 of its citizens' life years annually. "It has a long history," says Dr. René Weinandy, of the Umweltbundesamt, Germany's leading environmental protection agency.
Germany's 1974 Federal Pollution Act was introduced with the intention of bringing down transport noise across what was then West Germany. It took Britain another 16 years before adopting comparable legislation. The laws have not stopped Germans from complaining about noise, however. Every Monday in Frankfurt hundreds of people take to the streets in protest at aircraft noise. In the Rhine Valley, through which freight trains and trucks rumble all the way to Italy, similar protests are also common. Nine out of 10 of all EU railway complaints come from Germany.
Kids' playgrounds across Germany are notable for the lack of noisy children as parents and teachers fear neighbours’ reprisals. Even in Berlin, Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city famed for its party scene, any raucousness is strictly verboten after 22:00. Even a late night washing machine cycle can result in confrontation. On Sundays, Ruhezeit (quiet time) is rolled back to just 20:00, as the country closes down. Shops are shuttered, heavy trucks are banned and electrically assisted gardening is off limits. Courts have even been known to rule on when and for how long dogs may bark.
Culture is at the heart of German attitudes to sound. Since the nature loving symphonies of Bach and Beethoven, or Goethe, who eulogised the wild and its hunters within, German culture has been interwoven with complex ideas towards quiet. When synced sound became available to Germany's expressionist film directors in the 1920s, says Lutz Köpnick, of Vanderbilt University, purist directors were vehemently opposed to the "talkies". "They were very virulent, hesitant to embrace sound, because it ruined the beauty of the cinematic image," he says. The issue wasn't just that sound would be difficult to synchronise, but that the images themselves, often florid and painterly, would be terminally compromised by the "complication" of sound.
Some even link German's modern day love of tranquility to Hitler's use of noise to champion his fascist agenda. He subsidised the cost of radio sets to reach inside the homes of each and every German. Many of his speeches were so shrill they were deliberately deafening, says Köpnick. "The radio was a key way of filling the airwaves with Hitler's voice, and the Nazis could hold power over people's imagination." After World War Two, politicians' speeches became quieter, adopting a more considered tone than their European counterparts.
Ohropax's current factory in the Hessian town of Wehrheim, is not one of Germany's quietest places, buzzing and whirring as thousands of earplugs roll off the production line each day. Its products, however, have been mitigating noise for over a century. They, like Ohropax's home, have changed throughout the 20th Century. In 1958, as private enterprise was calcified under East German communism, the company moved to Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt, under the leadership of Negwer's son Wolfgang. In 1991, with grandson Michael in charge, Ohropax sought a new home. It settled for Wehrheim. The reason? According to Michael: "It had nice peace and quiet."