What would our cities be like if architects and urban planners had scent as a main pillar of their design concept? Or what would your senses experience living in the 18th century? PhD researcher William Tullett of King's College London, researches just that. The historian has rebuilt scentscapes from times left behind.
Designers and researchers have been working to awaken the nose, and bring attention to the forgotten sense, scent. Projects, such as the Olfactory Cocktail Menus at the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin and the late Victoria Henshaw’s Scent-Walks, are aimed at bringing awareness to the lost sense in the everyday. Being in touch with scent gives us another dimension through which to explore the world - the delicious, the foul and the forgotten. Here are a few of my favourite works on the topic. William Tullet is a historian who specializes on the sensorial history of Britain.
“Moving between the aromatic pleasure gardens habituated by fashionable, scent-obsessed Macaronis, the perfume shops of London purveying the ubiquitous lavender water, and the crowded assembly halls with their assorted putrid miasmas, it’s time to inhale the frags of the past and discover how a historian goes about using smell as a source material.”
This is the introduction Odette Toilette (aka Lizzie Ostrom) gave Tullett on the pod cast, Life in Scents. Life in Scents, is a wonderful podcast out of London, UK that both teases the senses and is a wealth of information on the most unsuspecting topics - she even brings an eloquence to sharing the olfactory worlds of death and decay in her episode featuring a young and passionate mortician. I look forward to the new episode every month.
Odette also hosts olfactory adventures ranging from a 'Scent Speakeasy', to 'Wine vs Perfume' to 'Scent and Mythology'. It's through Odette that I discovered the late Victoria Henshaw, who devoted her life’s work to the invisible aspect of cities and urban planning - scent, she felt was crucially overlooked by architects and planners. Her 'Scent-walks' inspire a new way to experience your neighbourhood and your senses.
“Forget your mother’s voice in your head telling you not to smell the dirty pavements – sniff the good, sniff the bad, sniff the boring and sniff the downright balmy … you’ll be amazed by what you might discover in the process”, wrote Henshaw, in her how-to guide to Scent-walking on her website, Smell and the City.
Over here at the Sangre de Fruta studio, we think a lot about scent - how it makes us feel, where it transports our imagination, and surprisingly, I noticed that when I put a scent into words, it’s colours that come to mind. For example, the scent of Vetiver in my mind is distinctly a deep amber colour, despite the essential oil coming from the root of a vivid green grass. The variations on the oil have a different amber hue in my mind. We’ll be experimenting with this sensorial concept over the next while - so do check back and follow our Facebook page to see what we come up with.
Listen: William Tullet, LIFE IN SCENTS
Listen: Victoria Henshaw, LIFE IN SCENT
Read: LS:N Global, OLFACTIVE MENUS
Connect: Sangre de Fruta, FACEBOOK