The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Architectural scent

To the preview of the Royal Academy’s new ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’ show. More, perhaps, of an adult’s (and children’s) playground than a seriously thought-provoking show, but I was very taken with an installation by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, designer (among other things) of the LVMH head office in Tokyo.

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In two darkened rooms, Kuma has installed rather beautiful pyramidal sculptures using willowy slivers of bent bamboo, lit by tiny spotlights in the floor. I wouldn’t exactly class it as architecture myself, but what really appealed to me was Kuma’s imaginative use of scent. The first, larger sculpture is impregnated with the smell of hinoki, the fragrant Japanese cedar (Chamaecyparis obtusa), traditionally used in the construction of temples, while the second room evokes the grassy, hay-like smell of new tatami mats.

The scent of buildings is often overlooked, so it’s refreshing to come across an architect who values smell as much as the other senses. Other architects please take note.

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