The Smells of Central Park in October, in a Museum

800px-Central_Park_in_the_fall_-_panoramio

Central Park in the Fall. Photo by Thomas Julin [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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. 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 movies 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.

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