Architecture and Fragrance


What would Mies van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House smell like? How about Corbusier’s Villa Savoye?

If the work of Architects Bjarke Ingels or Richard Meier were a fragrance what would they smell like?

A recent exhibition at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco entitled “An Olfactory Archive: 1738-1969” explored these questions.

The exhibit brought together several Architects, Historians and Perfumers to “recreate” smells specific to particular eras and buildings in history. One of the most intriguing was by a New York Architect Jorge Otero-Pailos who created an Olfactory Reproduction of the Phillip Johnson House.” Otero-Pailos created three scents which encapsulated an olfactory history of the house from its initial completion in 1949 smelling of new leather, wood lacquer, cement and fresh plaster to the late 1960’s when its porous ceiling had become impregnated with the smell of cigarettes, tobacco aged leather and burnt logs.

It’s a powerful idea that we can recreate a space through scent… or that the scent provides us with some missing dimension of experience that a photograph could never reproduce. Scent is one of the essential experiential senses and one that is not overtly designed for Architectural space.

Can you remember the smell of your first primary school… your grandparents’ house? What does the work of Arch11 smell like? How should it smell?

- Jeremy Ehly

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