Scentscape 06. 2015 – Singapore

Singapore prefers not to smell, instead it scents.

The city’s warm outdoor streets are redolent with ubiquitous frangipani and jasmine. Whereas interior public spaces tend to be olfactorily-curated to the extent that a local (albeit pungent) fruit, the durian, is forbidden. Commercial environments are frequently scented and carefully designed to demarcate brands in a shopping space.

Sometimes it is hard to imagine the possibility of any perceptible presence of everyday urban smells. Singapore is an island city state with a diversity of cultures, a preoccupation with food and a groundhog day equatorial climate. On what would its ‘citizen sensors’ remark through scentwalking the city?

Eight neighbourhoods were picked by locals as a representative sample of the multicultural aspect of the city. Walks took place in Katong, Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Sentosa, East Coast Parkway, Gardens by the Bay, Little India, Orchard Road and Toa Payoh neighbourhoods. Concentric rings of dots represent an averaged intensity rating and the number repeats of the rings represent scent duration. The colour scheme was taken from participant choices for each of the neighbourhoods. For each walk the most commonly mentioned scent was selected to represent the neighbourhood. The smellwalk, crowd-sourced data were then checked in each of the remaining neighbourhoods to determine whether or not the scent was also perceived, and only if it did was it added to the map. This process reveals neighbourhoods that counter the commonly-perceived smell; Orchard Road is a notable counter-olfactory zone. Visualisation reveals the olfactory vibrancy of Kampong Glam and Little India over the lightness of the Gardens by the Bay. The rings of scent droplets float across a page, entangling and layering upon each other forming a pressed thread ‘felt’ of smell. The scentscape of Singapore lingers as tiny droplets encapsulated in the warm humid air. Curiosity Scents (the deliciously weird anomalies):
  • Dinosaur
  • A hard life
  • Broccoli / deep dark secrets
Episodic Scents (one taken from each neighbourhood):
  • Roti prata + curry
  • Shisha (an evening scent)
  • Herby, minty, bitter, dried
  • Salt, sea water & salty air
  • Manila rope
  • Unpolished wood
  • Jasmine
  • Perfume, floral
  • Durian
Background Scents (overall basenotes):
  • Spicy, smokey, hot Humid
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Date: 2015
Media & size: Digital print, 1089mm x 841mm

2019 – Show 2019, RCA, London, UK
2019 – PhD Viva, RCA, London, UK
2016 – Work in Progress, RCA, London UK

2018 – The Senses: Design beyond Vision,
2017 – The Diagram 15.6
2016 – Ex-formation as a method for mapping smellscapes in Communication Design Vol 3, 2015 Issue 2, pp 173-186