Smellwalk Influences & Causality

In my practice there is no smellscape mapping without the smellwalk; the maps emanate from the perceivers and the perceivers operate in real time, not from memory or received information. With this in mind it is essential to recognise the provenance of the smellwalk; the literature and influences, the practitioners and their disparate disciplines. Porteous advocated the smellwalk as a tool for exploring the smellscape in his seminal 1985 paper citing a Lynchean model as his inspiration for how a smellwalk might manifest. The soundscape studies/acoustic ecologies field is full of useful reference and provides a theoretical reference for the practice.

Reading the ‘map’

The graphic takes the form of a causal link diagram, with more than a nod to Barr, depicting the trajectory of my own reflection-in-practice and some external influences. This causal network fixes and simplifies time in space, the action is flattened and no longer serialised – this is a map. Longitudinal markers across the top indicate approximate geographic location, including degrees east or west of Greenwich and 3-letter IATA codes as city references (any use of lower case letters indicates my imaginary coding).

In this diagram nodes have hierarchical priority over the links; black text indicates a revelation or a change in practice and grey text indicates external influences and influencing of the smellwalks. Many arrows are uni-directional, this only indicates that, as Tufte says “the idea of causality is simplistic” and is not a representation of the complexity of the relationships.

Critical smellwalks in my smellscape mapping practice are indicated with a larger typeface; they occur in bursts and are followed by periods of consolidation through series of individual walks. Time is indicated on the y-axis and it can be seen that the period between mid 2014 and later 2015 was most productive in terms of the number of walks and frequency. This led to a range of smellwalks suited to specific research questions and/or the number of people involved.

The colour key, located at the bottom of the ‘map’, doubles as a summary of the findings.

Disciplinary Reach

The range of disciplinary homes of practitioners is broad, within the arts and humanities: urban studies, architecture, art, design, philosophy, olfactory pedagogy, sensory geography, mobile methods. Connections that I have noted here reach out to mindfulness, play and anosmia.

Further Work

This is an example of how the processes of writing and designing (as a reflective practitioner) about a practice that developed in-situ can be used to further the field of design research. My personal preference is to trial and iterate, many times this iteration occurs during events – I have found that the involved are forgiving, understanding that there is no ‘right’ in design.

There is scope to research and generate a map of smellwalk practitioners in order to share knowledge about best practice and experience in terms of methodology, smellwalk design and recording mechanisms. Even more important might be the mutual support of and by individual researchers who are working in a relatively new field that is still beset with disbelief, and occasionally ridicule.

If you have run a smellwalk please contact me with your name, location and some details, so that I can add you to the map.

Links & References

Bouchard, N. (2013) Le théâtre de la mémoire olfactive : le pouvoir des odeurs à modeler notre perception spatiotemporelle de l’environnement. [Online] Available from: https://papyrus.bib.umontreal.ca/xmlui/handle/1866/10040


Diaconu, M., Heuberger, E., MateusBerr, R. & Marcel Vosicky, L. (eds.) (2011) Senses and the City: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Urban Sensescapes. Wien, Lit Verlag.


Ellingsen, E. & Werner, C. (2010) Smell Walk. [Online]. 18 February 2010. Institut für Raumexperimente. Available from: http://raumexperimente.net/en/single/smell-walk/


Henshaw, V. (2014) Five Top Tips for Smellwalking. Smell and the City. [Online]. Available from: https://smellandthecity.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/five-top-tips-for-smellwalking/


Lammes, S. & Perkins, C. (fc) Playful mapping: modes, moments and methods. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space


Langer, E.J. & Moldoveanu, M. (2000) The Construct of Mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues. [Online] 56 (1), 1–9. Available from: doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00148.


Lotus, M. & Skov, R. (2013) Om Lotus&Skov. LOTUS&SKOV. [Online]. Available from: https://lotusogskov.wordpress.com/about/


McBride, M (2015) smellwalk | RE/Lab. RE/Lab. [Online]. Available from: https://relab.blog.ryerson.ca/tag/smellwalk/


Morris, N. & McLean, K. (2016) Kate McLean on Twitter: ‘@_NinaJM @EdinGeography @GeosciencesEd love the guy #smelling the ground’. [Online]. 2 March 2016. Available from: https://twitter.com/katemclean/status/705053664281567232


Mullol, J., Alobid, I., Marino-Sanchez, F., Quinto, L., et al. (2012) Furthering the understanding of olfaction, prevalence of loss of smell and risk factors: a population-based survey (OLFACAT study). BMJ Open. [Online] 2 (6), e001256–e001256. Available from: doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001256.
Southern, J. (2015) Smell Walk. [Online]. Available from: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/mobilities-experiments/2015/05/16/smell-walk/


Vasilikou, C. (2016) Dr Carolina Vasilikou launches new Sensory Walks in Canterbury – Kent School of Architecture – University of Kent. [Online]. 12 April 2016. Available from: https://www.kent.ac.uk/architecture/news/2015/160412_sensorywalk.html


Westerkamp, H. (2001) Soundwalking. [Online]. 2001. Available from: http://www.sfu.ca/~westerka/writings%20page/articles%20pages/soundwalking.html