Saturday, January 8, 2011

Invisible Architecture: Experiencing Places Through the Sense of Smell

I was writing my post about scratch and sniff events at theaters and thinking about this emphasis of the senses in architecture, when I found by chance this book Invisible Architecture: Experiencing Places through the Sense of Smell. I think it must be really interesting, considering the smell is very important, for example, in the Middle Ages, people thought that diseases were produced by inhaling putrid smells. In consequence, all meals were absolutely spiced and treated with vinegar.
In my experience, one can reject a place, just because we can´t stand the smell. Isaac Asimov, in his book Foundations Edge writes about the smell of the cities and how uncomfortable it could be for visitors.
From The Scented Salamander´s post:
"An extract from Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, 1722, is quoted in the book and he wrote: "If we came to go into a church when it was anything full of people, there would be such a mixture of smells at the entrance that it was much more strong, though perhaps not so wholesome, than if you were going into an apothecary's or druggist's shop." He goes on to describe the different smells that would be encountered. This quotation sums up much of what the book is about, but it is brought it right up the present day with the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York with the smell of the dust, consisting of cement, asbestos and paper among other things."
An important aspect of this study is that it also helps you redefine what architecture is,
"The book also raises the question, what is architecture? Most of us have a preconceived notion that it is buildings and the built environment, but if we experience places through the sense of smell, as this book sets out to do, then it is rarely the actual buildings that produce the odour but the activities associated with them."

What does a church smell like? Or a movie theater? How conscious are we of the smells that surround us? The idea that places have an olfactory identity is not recent. Even in ancient architecture the dynamics of scents and their permeation were incorporated into the design. The 20th century, however, witnessed an increasing need to dry out spaces and sterilize the air in the effort to eliminate any olfactory perception in the regulation of indoor air quality. The resinous odor of the timber in Peter Zumthor's Swiss Pavillon at the Hannover Expo; the thinness of the oxygen-poor Blur Bar by Diller+Scofidio; the shape-rendering Wind Tunnel by Renzo Piano for Ferrari at Maranello—these are among the most recent signs that architecture is reclaiming it's invisible olfactory dimension to add a further experience to space. This original book maps out places and scents from around the world, in architecture throughout the ages, accompanied by expert "noses": celebrated architects, avant-garde artists and scientists who research perception.

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