PD-| 9 Smell Progress

” SMELL. “


Heng Tong  x  Hong Sheng

(apologies for the late progress post)


We began conceptualising the form of smell with our concepts. As we consulted Professor Ker Siang, we realised there is a mismatch of ideals among our 3 concepts. 

As our intention is to capture scent by triggering tactile trajectory, concept 2 and 3 have a clash of idea as both concepts feel too curated in a sense that there is no other purpose of the installations aside from its form, and the trigger of tactile interaction is lost, as the installations feel too foreign for the people to interact with it.

Concept 1 is the closest to our intended target, thus we decide to develop on the concept.

Also during the consultation, the idea of a ‘membrane’ of which a poetic notion of having each individual pass through a ‘membrane’ is being discussed, with the idea of ‘hanging planes’ hanging at the front of a given walkway. As such, every individual has to push past the planes in order to go into the walkway. 

The concept is really radical in the placement of the installation, in which it blocks the airflow of the walkway,  thus separating and allocating a set vicinity to trap the scent.

However, there is a number of drawbacks to this concept. One is such that it forces the users to interact with it, and the trapped scent may very well be nasty due to the nature of humidity of the Singaporean weather.

Thus, both Hong Sheng and I feel that the concept can be further refined.

Smell Development | Research

In the midst of our development, we realised that in order to create our installation in the way we intend to, the use of a base smell is inevitable. As such, we find ourselves faced with 2 huge obstacles.

Firstly, we have to curate a base smell to be placed in within our installation. We will need to create a base smell for that, and we need to justify our base smell.

Secondly, we know that the technicalities regarding the curation of a base smell are not within our expertise. Therefore, we looked at more research based on smell installations that are curated. From these, we try to understand how we can allow the scent to be encapsulated within our installation.

Smell me by Martynka Wawrzyniak


Smell me is a smell self-portrait of Polish-born Martynka Wawryniak. Her installation was curated at the envoy enterprise gallery in New York, in 2012.

Through a year-long research collaboration with a crew of students at Hunter College to collect her scent – of which consist of sweat, tears and hair oil. As such she had to work closely with the research students for a year, of which consists of many laboratory research and tests. 



Smell of Fear by Sissel Tolaas


Smell of Fear is a 2006 smell installation by Sissel Tolaas. It is an installation that curated the smell of twenty men suffering from severe phobias, from twenty different parts of the world.

As part of the curation of the smell, Sissel Tolaas collected the scent of these twenty men at the moment their phobia kicked in, and then is simulated in her laboratory in Berlin called Re_searchLab. Using nanotechnology, the sweat molecules were recreated and micro-encapsulated. This allowed the molecules to be kept within the neutral smelling blinder of the exhibition, and will only be activated by touch. 

As poetic as these 2 installations showcased, both showcased a huge basis of the scientific process before they derived with their outcome. We feel that we do not have the necessary expertise to create the smell within our installation. Therefore, unfortunately,  we feel that we can only base our installation on a conceptual hypothesis.

Moving Forward

However, all hope is still not lost. We looked to local perfumeries to gain bits of knowledge, as well as to solve our crisis.

Jetaime Perfumery

Jetaime Perfumery is a local perfumery firm who has created scents of Singapore, into bottles of perfume entitled Singapore Memories. Jetaime Perfumery also has an upcoming Smell Museum opening in Singapore.

We have enquired with them to seek advice and perhaps look into the way they create the smells. Having already reached out to them, we have not gotten a response yet.

Phoebe the Perfumer

Our ever-helpful friend Grace (thank you!) told us of her acquaintance, Phoebe who is a perfumer. We reached out to her to inquire some knowledge. Below is the summary of our conversation with her.


Client wants to launch a new line of product which requires a new fragrance.

The client will approach fragrance houses with a fragrance brief

The brief will include information on what the product will be, target market, where it will be sold, kind of feel it will try to evoke, colours and mood board, or even an existing perfume for inspiration.

Teams within the fragrance houses will be assembled to work on the brief.

Key figures: 

Perfumers (create formulas, decide what ingredients to use)

Evaluators (Smell what has been created, compared to the brief, evaluate fragrance on actual heads to see if fragrance works according to the brief given.

Perfumer decides the quantity of ingredients to put into the fragrance. Musks (eg. Galaxodite) are used in perfumery as base nodes, for longevity and depth.

The top 5 in Fragrance Industry is Givaudan, IFF, Symrise, Firmenich and Tasksago.

Much to our surprise, which also demonstrated our lack of knowledge in the pursuit of our tackling field, the Singapore industry also actively pursue perfumery to create scents in products. 

As we develop our concept, we look to try to work on the technicalities to the best of our abilities.



Smell Connotation

Back to developing our concept, we decided to extrapolate the notion of smell into form. We did this by extracting a number of words pertaining to smell. 

In the end, we came out with 3 keywords: Dispersive, Porosity and Flow.

Dispersive (adjective) describes the nature of smell, diffusing into the surrounding air. Porosity (noun) describes the human nature of looking into a vent to justify the origin of the smell. Flow (verb) describes the journey of the smell molecules. 

We created a small survey of which we tested our peers to draw with the 3 keywords.

Some interesting aspects of the survey are that the majority of our peers drew flow as a line stretching from left to right. 

Other interesting aspects include: Casey also drew out of the space showing the dispersive action, Darren showed the flow from bottom to top and Jeremy drawing a funnel.

We thank all of you, and we look to develop in the form of smell for our installation.



Concept (a) – Frame

The frame concept is inspired by the idea that a particular scent denotes a particular space. Our concept lies in the Our chosen placement is the open space at Northspine, outside the lecture theatres. 

Our idea is to create a location where NTU students can congregate through the ambiguous form within the installation. Inspired by Verner Panton’s Visona II, we want our space inside to be made of memory foam that lingers with our base smell. Placement of an open space allows ventilation and diffusion of the scent to the surrounding.

Concept (b) – Membrane

Inspired by the idea of smell molecules passing through a membrane. Our chosen placement is the tunnel walkway at north spine.

For this concept, we look into the curation of smell into a visual form. As this concept plays with the height of the walkway, we want our installation to fill the extent of the wall. We strive to create the visual aspects of smell through our chosen keywords, and in using memory foam, we look to create a 3-dimensional art installation, while at the same time defusing our base smell into the vicinity. 

Looking forward, we want to look into finalising the visual form of smell, and to create a render of the installation. We also want to create our base smell.

That’s all for now. Cheers.


Author: Heng Tong Foo

in pursuit of happiness.

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