Designing with Smell

Smells can play a really important part in forming the overall experience of a space or building as a smell actually has the potential to form part of an individual’s emotional attachment to a space. Despite this, design is very rarely used in design (unless you count mechanical extraction or other methods or removing odours) with smells usually just occurring as by-products.

Urban Scentscapes are made up of smells emitted by the natural environment , the manmade environment, and people and  activities. According to Victoria Henshaw in her book ‘Urban Smellscapes’, the odour backdrop frequently perceived in Sheffield is dominated by traffic fumes. When a perfumer creates a scent, it is made from base, mid and top notes. The top notes are the ones that are sensed immediately as they exist in the forefront of perception, however they are quite temporal, and don’t last as long as the base notes. We could class the traffic odour as the base note for Sheffield scentscape.


Scentscape Model (Author, 2016)


I would like to explore the concept of ‘designing with smell’ as part of my scenario/intervention to create a more positive smellscape in and around the site.

My last blog post Reduced Smellscape suggested displacing the traffic from the central part of Little London Road by pedestrianising the area, in order to improve air quality and reduce traffic odours in the heart of the site. On revisiting this idea, moving this odour from one place to another would mean that the surrounding area would be very dominated by traffic odours, and this smell would then contrast with the pedestrianised zone possibly making it more noticeable.

Introducing more greenery into urban areas is often seen as a direct means of improving the smell environment. Henshaw also describes the freshening effect associated generally with water…

… flowing water …  if not physically improving the pollution, it will aesthetically improve people’s perception, because if there’s clean running water people think it’s a clean environment … (Henshaw, V., 2014)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s