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You know it makes scents

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In future, will architects have to take olfactory factors into account as part of their grand designs?

Last year, in an attempt to mollify harassed passengers, London Underground introduced perfume into the Tube system, spraying selected platforms with a coating of aromatic scents which were gradually released by the scuffing of shuffling feet along their surfaces.

Intended both to stifle the nauseating build-up of urea-based odours and nauseating build-up of demands for increased investment in decent ventilation, the perfume scheme was piloted in a few select stations: more Green Park than Park Royal.

Now olfactory architecture is coming to a nose near you. Smelly design has been picked up by researchers for a project displayed recently at University College London (UCL). Called 'Scents of Space', it consisted of a 9m light box described as a 'smell installation'.

Visitors entering the enclosure experienced carefully controlled zones of fragrance that defined and demarked (sic) areas of space without physical boundaries, encouraging them to encounter an invisible yet tangible smell environment'.

The project used pleasant and malodorous smells which were automatically wafted into the air depending on the proximity and speed of the visitor. By using 12 fans, diffusion screens and pressure chambers, it was possible to hold the scents in specific locations.

The designers say architects have been slow to pick up on the study of smells, preferring 'visual stimulation at the expense of the more sensual and evocative strategies'. Given that smells are recognised as an aid to memory of place and experience, maybe feeding one of the more acute senses could be a design strategy to watch in the coming year.

'Scents of Space' was organised by Josephine Pletts and Usman Haque of architectural practice Pletts Haque, and Dr Luca Turin of the Physiology Computing Group at University College London.

For more details about the project, go to www. p-h. org. uk

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