This podcast about urban smellscapes was produced by Jo Barratt and first aired on Life in Scents. It is part of our ‘Feast for the Senses’ series.
Have you ever stepped off a plane and been aware of a different smell in the air – the smell of a country, a city, a terrain?
This podcast is a fascinating exploration of our urban smellscapes. We are all familiar with landscapes – ‘smellscapes’ are the smell equivalent.
It is drawn from a lecture by Victoria Henshaw lecturer in Urban Design and Planning at University of Sheffield, whose specialism is smell. The lecture took place after one of Victoria’s ‘Smell Walks’, organised by Scratch and Sniff events and explores how we live and navigate using our noses, how cities can be mapped by aroma, and how architects and planners might use a consideration of this in their work.
It starts by looking at how we adapt to different smells. Usually we are smelling so many different things but we don’t process them all consciously as it would be overwhelming to do so. Some smells are cultural, some smells we are more tolerant of at certain types of day(such as beer at night), some smells we experience differently depending on our genes (eg Androstenonethe the hormone in body odour – sometimes called the caveman odoour – which 60% of us can smell, but 40% cannot smell. Of those who can smell it, 90% smell body odour, but 10% smell flowers!) Have we ‘sterilised’ our environment, rid it of the smells?
Victoria finishes with a bit of futurology, and she tells us to expect smells for our mobile phones – which will give us different smells for different callers!
If you are interested in further exploration in the world of smell, the absolute go-to podcast platform is Life in Scents, which has lots of podcasts of interviews with people looking at their lives through smell. Also take a look at Victoria Henshaw’s great blog, Smells and the City, and Odette Toilette’s olefactory adventure events.
Photo, Amsterdam: Fons Heijnsbroek
And find our podcast on Anosmia here.