Headspace was a one-day symposium on the conception, impact, and potential applications of scent. This event gathered leading thinkers, designers, scientists, artists, established perfumers as well as “accidental perfumers” (a selection of architects, designers, and chefs invited to experiment with scent) to acknowledge scent as a new territory for design. The event marked the establishment of a new MFA in Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons.
The Role Environmental Scenting plays in Design
Presented at the event were a series of six prototypical explorations commissioned for the Accidental Perfumers project. For each entry, a perfumer and designer set out to explore the role of scent could play in design.
In one specific collaboration, the environmental activist Majora Cater teamed up with Pascal Guarin and Bruno Jovanovic, perfumers from IFF in New York. Carter is the Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx, a nonprofit that brings green-collar jobs, public awareness, and green spaces to Hunt’s Point, Bronx, where residents are exposed to huge amounts of industrial waste and air pollution.
Emotional Impact of Poor Air Quality
For their project, they focused on the emotional impact the poor air quality had on the residents. They created a scent called L’Eau Verte du Bronx du Sud, which smelled like fresh-cut grass and was meant to evoke positive feelings associated with the natural world. They teamed up with Sal Gigante, a superintendent for a local low-income housing development. They used the buildings’ HVAC system to disperse small puffs of a custom nontoxic fragrance in public spaces which promoted enhanced positive feelings among the inhabitants.
“The part of your brain that senses scent can allow you to feel really bad about what you see in front of you—or really good—depending on what it is,” Majora Carter in an interview with BusinessWeek about the project.
The “Accidental Perfumers” project used the power of smell to inspire emotional wellbeing. It is an example of the role that the fragrance industry can play in rethinking the impact of smell in our culture.