how do we create captivating places that hold in our memories – that draw us back over and over, that linger in our minds, pulling us to them again? in the design of places, i’ve been thinking about captivation and memory. why places draw my attraction or repulsion, why places pull me in – and what is striking about the nature of memorable places?
the power of the link between memory and scent deepens the connection to the experience of place. the more i’ve explored the idea, my experience is heightened – like smelling in technicolor. many of my most powerful memories of places can be triggered by scent.
last summer, i met lorenzo villoresi in his atelier in florence – surrounded by thousands of essences he has collected from travels all over the world, i asked him about the idea of scent in architecture or place, rather than the personal fragrance that he is most known for creating. he shared this book with me “invisible architecture, experiencing places through the sense of smell”, a wonderful exploration of this concept.
in the hills above florence we explored one of the few iris farms dedicated to the production of the essence. as he explained, the iris essence is nearly 10 times the cost of most essences “notes” as the nose calls them. the rare iris essence is extracted from iris bulbs – the flower has no scent. the bulbs are re-planted after shaving off the bottom two-thirds, macerating, drying and powderizing.
i still remember being stricken by memory through scent when i picked up an old perfume bottle from a friend’s dresser, and was overwhelmed with the memory of my babysitter from preschool years, whom i hadn’t seen or thought of for more than 10 years – her presence was powerfully evoked to that moment through her fragrance. it wasn’t dragon’s blood – i don’t even know the name of that perfume, but i know that i can recognize that scent again 20 years later.