The Smells of Central Park in October, in a Museum

For its Design Triennial in 2015, the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum commissioned Sissel Tolaas, smell artist, researcher, and chemist, to create a scratch-and-sniff wall releasing various scents of Central Park. Tolaas’s work for this piece involved a week of roaming through the Park gathering samples—she chose the month of October—, which she then analyzed in order to reproduce their scent molecules. The next steps were to microencapsulate the latter and embed them in a special paint she used to coat a wall. Touching the wall would then release the scent. She titled her installation The Beauty of Decay: SmellScape Central Park, as by October plants in the park are already decaying. The wall was meant to encompass the complex experience of walking through the whole 843 acres of Central Park.

I like the idea. I can see its appeal for someone like Sissel Tolaas, who has collected and created thousands of smells, and I imagine that in the future businesses will be quite busy designing scents for movie theaters and other leisure venues. As long as they act like Proust’s madeleine to remind people of their experiences in the real world, it’s all good.

Photo of Central Park (New York City) in the fall
Central Park in the Fall. Photo by Thomas Julin [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6 thoughts on “The Smells of Central Park in October, in a Museum

  1. You really make it seem really easy with your presentation but I in finding this matter to be really something that I believe I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely wide for me. I am looking ahead on your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You could certainly see your expertise within the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sharlene! (I missed certain comments when they were posted because I’ve been taking long breaks from this blog between certain posts. I’ve made it a point now to be back here more regularly.)


  3. Mira Tudor, Thank you for the images, information and links on how Central Park smells in October. There can be a residue from touching so I wonder how often and with what means the Smithsonian keeps the wall healthily user-friendly!
    It’s interesting in the link that “After analyzing the scent molecules of different elements from within Central Park, Tolaas reproduced them as closely as possible, using a ‘microencapsulation’ process, containing them inside tiny capsules.” I note the “as closely as possible” since Rudolf Steiner questioned how well science really understands microscopic complexities and, for example in support of Steiner’s wariness, synthetic quinine is not 100 percent effective, but natural is, in treating malaria.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Derdriu, thank you for your comment. It’s very interesting what you say about quinine, synthetic and natural! (Sorry for the late response. I will log in more often from now on to check for comments and to post more often.)


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