Scent and the City: Urban Planning Using Smellscapes

urban planningn using smellscapes

When I went on a smellwalk in Boston, I was interested to learn about how smell impacts our daily life. As someone with a keen sense of smell, this has always fascinated me.

Kate McLean, the leader of our smellwalk, recently wrote a paper with some other folks called Smelly Maps: The Digital Life of Urban Smellscapes.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the data from the Boston smellwalk was used in the paper. But it’s interesting to think about the possibilities of urban planning with a different approach to designing cities.

It’s not just physical landscapes that should be considered. Smellscapes should also be taken into account with urban planning. I love how they note “good fragrances” like in Japan. Below (with edits) are the recommendations to city planners.
One hundred sites in Japan have been declared as protected because of their ‘good fragrance’. However, the general situation in the rest of the world greatly differs. Urban planners to date have tended to think about smells in terms of management of bad odors, rarely considering preserving and celebrating the smells that people like. There are a number of ways that the urban smellscape can be altered; manipulating the air flow by changing the street layout, pedestrianization to alter traffic emissions, the creation of restorative environments through the planting of trees, greenspaces and waterways, and the strategic placement of car stopping points are just a few examples. City officials do not fully consider the opportunities presented by the sense of smell simply because they have been the victims of a discipline’s negative perspective. We hope that our work might help them rethink their approaches and use olfactory opportunities to create stimulating multisensory places.

I recall so many good smells while walking around Boston. If you’ve ever walked through the North End, you know what I mean! We do have large green spaces and a beautiful clean waterfront, but I wonder if even more could be done using smellscapes to make Boston an even better city.

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Image: Boston’s Smellwalk Map Route

Corita Kent: Throwback Thursday: Boston Gas Tanks

Gas tank art of Corita KentAfter reading a recent article about Sister Corita Kent, it reminded me of my 1991 picture of the two gas tanks. Now there is only one gas tank, but thankfully the beautiful art of Corita Kent was preserved.

As a child, I used to be so excited when I would see the familiar Boston landmark. The big splashes of bright colors painted on one of the two gas tanks as my father drove our family into Boston countless times on the expressway. Until I saw that gas tank, I never thought about art being placed on objects that weren’t necessarily art. Corita Kent brought art to the masses even if you weren’t looking for it. There it was.

On January 31st, an exhibit of her work will be opening at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh called Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent. The exhibit will be there until April 19th and covers more than 30 years of her work. Below is an excerpt from the website.

In her rich and varied career, she was a designer, teacher, feminist, and activist for civil rights and anti-war causes. Her thousands of posters, murals, and signature serigraphs reflect these combined passions for faith and politics. Kent became one of the most popular graphic artists of the 1960s and ‘70s, and her images remain iconic symbols that address the larger questions and concerns of that turbulent time and continue to influence many artists today.

While several exhibitions have focused on Corita’s work from the ‘60s, Someday is Now is the first major museum show to survey her entire career, including early abstractions and text pieces as well as the more lyrical works made in the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibition also includes rarely shown photographs Corita used for teaching and documentary purposes.

This looks like a great exhibit if you get the chance to go. It appears to be traveling to different cities, so maybe it will stop by a location near you.

Park(ing) Day 2014 ~ Wollaston Theatre

parking day 2014

Have you heard of Park(ing) Day? It’s an annual event that takes place all over the world, where “citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places.”

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!

I think it’s the coolest thing and have seen pictures from events in different cities. Yesterday on Twitter, I saw that there was going to be an event in my neighborhood. So today, I took a break and walked down to the Wollaston Theatre.

On my old blog, I’ve written about how it’s such a shame that the Wollaston Theatre has not been open for many years. When I first moved to Quincy in the early 90s, it was open and I saw a movie there.

While I was at the Wolly Park-(In), I spoke to Kara from the Quincy Planning Department. She said that the event was a way for them to get into the community and talk to people about what they would like to see in Quincy. She gave me a slip of paper to write my wish for Quincy and to hang it on the Wishing Tree, which she said was a Chinese tradition.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to share my wish, but it did have to do with the Wollaston Theatre opening up again. The current owner is Michael Fang. I hope that he considers it, because it’s a beautiful place and they don’t make theaters like that anymore.

Above are scenes from Park(ing) Day 2014 here in Quincy. Enjoy the pictures!