PDIV – |6-1 the form of smell

” SMELL. “


Heng Tong  x  Hong Sheng

Review of the comments from Exercise Sponge conducted the previous week

Exercise Sponge conducted during the previous week was a study of both material testing; as well as the collective data of absorbed smell at the various location within the premise of NTU.

We understand that the depiction of the form of smell is the ultimate aim of our project. We also know that the choice of material used will heavily dictate the final outcome, hence we conducted the study. Another important factor lies in the chosen site for placement of the final outcome. 

The study proved that within a short span of 40 hours, we were already able to use a readily found material in ‘magic sponge’ to have a collective data of smell. We uncovered the familiar scent of wet grass to ambiguous sniffs of faint. As such, we were able to open up questions and in such ignite conversations with our peers regarding what the smells were, which we feel really embodied our direction towards the aim of our outcome.

Moving forward…

Looking forward, we have some points to filter and confirm:

1. We want to set the main objective of our project. Whether our installation is to serve as a point that collects scent or to give off a scent.

2. We hope to source for a more sustainable material to fit the permanent installation.

3. Lastly, we also want to work with a feasible location in mind. 

Objective of Smell in a Permanent Installation

Smell is an olfactory trigger that is instantaneous and primitive, in beings. Smell is also the sense that is perceived and then acclimatised the quickest through sensory adaptation. Smell is usually the companying subset of the series of senses in a being. We find interest in the notion of smell, thus we took it on as the main theme of our project. Our aim for the final outcome is to curate smell within the premise of NTU as the strongest element of a permanent installation, such that people in NTU are able to remember the installation through the sense of smell.

As we looked upon curating smell in a permanent installation, we came upon 2 directions, both of distinctive differences – one is to formulate the smell within the NTU premise into a form that exudes a certain scent ; the other is to allow the smell of a certain vicinity of NTU to be absorbed into the installation. As such we stand at the crossroad of 2 distinctive different directions, we decided to weigh the pros and cons of each idea to have a clear diction to pick our chosen direction:

1. A permanent installation that gives off a distinct scent that embodies the school as a commentary.


* A resulting outcome will be interesting and distinct
* Creates an identity within a certain space
* Can be created through scent-giving material choice


* Time constraint for the study of NTU to formulate a distinct olfactory sense
* Use of scent-giving material does not tie into the theme of NTU for NTU students, but purely on the choice of material
* Dictating a universally-pleasing scent is difficult to muster as smell is subjective, not objective
* Maintainence of such permanent installation is not easy

2. To amplify the scent of smell through a permanent installation that absorbs smell within a vicinity.


*  Resulting outcome creates the identity of a certain vicinity of NTU through amplification of scent
* Uses scent that is amplified from scents already witihin a premise 
* Resulting outcome 'grows' with time, allows an element of surprise for students to uncover

* Smell absorbing materials sourced thus far are not sustainable
* May not be pleasant smelling scent, rather may result in a odour
* Maintanence easier compared to Idea 1

As we weigh the pros and cons, we are more inclined towards idea 2; thus have set our minds to concentrate on curating the allocated scent to be diffused into our proposed permanent installation.

Curating smell

Curating the absorbed smell, thus amplifying the smell is improbable, simply because the smell is formless. 

We began to look at forms that invite or suggest smelling. Some examples given by Ker Siang was to look at air freshener or perfume bottles forms, and how embalming/ taxidermy works to find possibly inspiration.

Use of weather-proof materials that also smell absorbent is not easy to source for, and we are currently still in the process of sourcing.

Alternatively, we would not want our choice of material to dictate the discovery of smell in the installation, yet it has to fulfil its task of absorbing smell whilst maintaining its sustainable feature.

One consideration is to have the people inside NTU to be able to interact with the installation, and through that process allow the diffusion of the smell of the people into the installation to be absorbed and in turn, amplified by diffusing the scent into the surrounding air.

As such, the installation will be able to absorb smell from the very people that interact with it. Perhaps, both I and Hong Sheng have constantly perceived the environment to be the factor of smell but it is instead the people, activities and that are happening within the environment that dictates the smell. 


Proposed Location

(view video link)


As we considered a suitable location for the placement of our installation, a chanced discovery of this particular location came to me and Hong Sheng.

In the video seen above depicts crowds of people walking through the sheltered walkway. Yet, all have failed to realise the spot that is designed and paved, right beside the walkway. 

We feel for that particular spot. We questioned the intention of having that spot designed and paved. We drew parallels of the ‘neglected’ spot with the sense of smell. The smell that is adapted to pave way for other senses. 

We feel that the location in a way shows similarity with the usage of smell as a sense, and we feel that the location embodied the sense of smell. As such, we view this as a potential location for our installation placement.

To be continued . . .

Author: Heng Tong Foo

in pursuit of happiness.

One thought on “PDIV – |6-1 the form of smell”

  1. I just came across this article https://mothership.sg/2018/02/random-trivia-about-changi-airport-you-never-needed-to-know/

    That unique smell at the airport


    And if you have been to Changi Airport enough or just recently, you can in fact, recall that familiar smell in your head right now. The airport, can sometimes, quite literally smell like home.

    Scent marketing is an actual marketing tool.

    Shopping centres and retail stores have long been using unique scents to create a sense of familiarity with the brand as you walk through their doors.

    The same can be said for the airport, only this time, it also has that added sense of comfort and home when you’re returning from overseas. The smell that greets you at Changi Airport is actually an orchid tea fragrancedeveloped specially for the airport.

    The scent is diffused at many places, including the main doors at departure halls and along 64 of the airport’s gangways

    …it’s true that smell can trigger your memory and bring back emotions

    are those emotions you should work on

    you must be sure that your installation will be relevant to the users

    the shape of the installation should be able to attract people curiosity (like flowers attract bees??? …here following a controversial work https://www.dezeen.com/2018/02/19/michael-candy-synthetic-pollensier-help-depleting-bee-population-technology/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest&utm_content=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest+CID_a3fe1011c156ab991fcde91ceb79e77b&utm_source=Dezeen%20Mail&utm_term=Synthetic%20Polleniser%20could%20help%20depleting%20bee%20population

    Regarding the chosen location: the ignored paved area years ago was dedicated to some benches and umbrellas, now is neglected because is smelly due the exhausting pipes from canteen kitchens…I wouldn’t recommend for your installation…

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