PDIV- |4 smell research

” SMELL. “


Heng Tong  x  Hong Sheng

As we reviewed the feedback from last week, idea 3 regarding smell-absorbing idea was the most interesting concept to develop. Thus, we took into consideration of smell-absorbing agents as our main topic for research.


Nasevo is the nickname given to Ernesto Ventos, a recognised perfumer and creator of scents. He has since presented books and artworks with regards to smell.

* Unfortunately since most of his published articles are in Spanish, we are unable to fully comprehend his points of view.


Smell Colour: chemistry, art and pedagogy by Ventos, Ernesto

Book published by Nasevo. Tells of the radical way of looking at art with regards to smell.

Book features works from all around the world, based upon the criteria of olfactory agent. Book showcases the notion of olfactory senses that can be classified as chemistry; and how it can exist in the world of perception.


Excerpts from the book

Javier Peñafiel (España, 1964)

(Natural greenery, chlorine, bleach)

Even if the person who provoked it disappears, the smell remains. 

Is desire provoked? Can democracy be provoked?


Mayte Vieta (El cebo, 2003)

(White flowers)

Invisible, it has the virtue of surprising, it appears when you least expect it, it incubates like the little buds of spring, like past times, faraway places, the reunion with a loved one, absenses, little particles in the air, it transports us back in time, unpredictable.


Bill Durgin (Cyc 9, 2007)


I have now begun to associate in my mind memories of the session when I took the photos with the memory of the smells given off by the various objects that accompanied the model. 


We also explored materials which actually absorb smells. We feel that the choice of material will play an important factor in creating our project. We found that carbon filter sponge, newspaper, peace lilies and sandalwood do take in smells to remove odours/filter air particles.

Carbon filter sponge

Carbon filter sponge is a material that we looked into previously.

Carbon filter is a material used in industry for purification and removal of contaminants in both air and water. It is a water-proof material that is also shapable.



The use of newspaper is an interesting choice of material that also absorbs smelling agents. In addition to being a smell-absorbant, the prints on the paper make the material visually interesting and malleable.

We, however, felt that the property of newspaper is not water-resistant and also could be a potential fire hazard, therefore, we will keep the use of newspaper as a material in view. 


In our research regarding natural air filters, we came across plants. In the report ‘NASA Clean Air Study’ published by NASA in 1989 is conducted to find out how plants improve air quality. The focus of the study looked at plants that thrive indoors in low-light conditions and actively remove pollutants from the air.

The peace lily is a plant that is considered the best natural air filter. The peace lily absorbs the pollutants from the air through the leaves before sending them down into the roots of the plant where the microbes in the soil will break down the pollutants; while providing moisture into the surrounding air.

We take particular interest in both the form and the natural air-filtering property of the peace lily.

Air Plants

Another interesting plant that we uncovered is the air plants that are mainly used in indoor spaces to clean the air by absorbing nutrients from the moisture and dirt fibres found drifting in the air.

In addition to their properties, we again take particular interest in their alienating form.


Through the vastly different projects taken from our research, smell as an olfactory agent can become the trigger to a certain memory. Yet that certain memory is subjective to each and every individual. This is an interesting point that we would want to look into to develop further.

We would like to create an exclusive olfactory trigger to any individual in NTU through our project. By creating a particular project that allows people to interact through the olfactory agent, in a way we are creating a ‘starting point’ of the experience of the NTU individuals.

We hope that our project can serve as a point of reminiscence for these individuals come the end of their journey in NTU, through the olfactory agent. As each individuals sense of smell is subjective, their memory experience will be in such a way exclusive.

Our main consideration is to use the olfactory agent as our primary element in our project, hence the outcome should remain ambiguous in the form. One inspiration that we gathered is the Visiona II by Verner Panton where the undulating organic forms, made from bright glossy materials, captured the imagination of a free-thinking society.

We hope to position our project in a place where many of the NTU people can congregate.*

* Points to consider, indoor or outdoor setting

To be continued.

Author: Heng Tong Foo

in pursuit of happiness.

One thought on “PDIV- |4 smell research”

  1. Few points:

    1) What form should it take on to communicate that it is a cumulation of smells from the atmosphere and people of NTU overtime? Look at perfume bottles, air fresheners, flowers (nature).

    2) Survey the smells of NTU and curate them into a form?

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