Sniffing our skyscrapers?
No, not exactly. But so intrigued was I by an essay on the influence of smells in our spaces – and more – I emailed “Scent and the City” to my college kid, who is studying architecture.
This New York Times piece by author and (presumably) architect Lance Hosey paints a pretty picture of the power of one of our more neglected senses, namely, smell, as he describes an evocative range of aromas that we associate with cities, not to mention moods.
Clearly, Mr. Hosey is in favor of multi-sensory spaces, offering numerous examples of odors both positive and negative, and how they impact us.
At least as interesting (to me) are the medical studies and opinions that Mr. Hosey cites, in particular, this:
In 2009, medical researchers at Tottori University in Japan found that exposing Alzheimer’s patients to rosemary and lemon in the morning and lavender and orange in the evening resulted in improved cognitive functions.
A Rose By Any Other Name
A few weeks back, life was weighing more heavily than usual, sleep was more painfully elusive, and speaking of pain – my back was killing me, a situation exacerbated by the hours I spend at my laptop.
I ran through Whole Foods to pick up three items, and the scent of lilies in the floral department was so intoxicating that I indulged. For $14.99 (plus tax) I availed myself of eight days and nights of a spicy fragrance that perked up my mood immediately. And kept it that way!
Surely, this pungent perfume was a factor.
And speaking of perfume, I never fail to put a few drops of Chanel on my wrists in the morning, a habit of many years. Considering the power of smell – so easy to forget – I realize that on the worst of workdays in my corporate years and since, I raise a wrist to my nose (subtly of course), I inhale deeply, and I benefit from a surge of renewed energy, focus, and willingness to keep on truckin’ as the saying goes – and usually with a more positive attitude.
Baking Smells Sell Houses
For any of us who have bought or sold a house, we may be aware of the aromas and their influence as we tour a home or prepare ours to be viewed. Years ago, I recall my real estate agent telling me that baking smells emanating from the kitchen were helpful in putting people at ease.
Who doesn’t feel warm and loved when walking into a room that is filled with scents that conjure the pleasures of the palate, not to mention holiday celebrations and family?
Mr. Hosey points out:
The therapeutic properties of scent have been cultivated since antiquity. They were a particular fascination of medieval monks in their cloistered gardens. Now modern science is revealing the wisdom of ancient practices.
He reminds us of equal comforts to be derived from the aromas of coffee, cinnamon, apples, rosemary, as well as other foods and spices. His references to various herbal remedies and their potential medicinal value strikes a chord – not only as something I wanted to mention to my son (who sits up all night drawing and designing) but as I assess ways, however unusual, to enhance the mood of my gentleman friend’s elderly mother.
Send Me No Flowers?
I made a visit to this lovely woman last week, and we enjoyed a glass of wine, girl talk, a short walk together, and an early dinner. As I was reading the Times essay, I found myself wondering if something as simple as a fragrance could enhance her mood, regardless of its impact on her cognitive function. Recalling the lilies I bought when I was feeling tired and stressed, not to mention other times I’ve dropped a few dollars on sensory therapy, I consider the delight in receiving flowers from a man.
We fill public and private spaces with flowers when we can. Not only is that for their beauty, but fragrance is part of the package.
What if I were to pick up a few stems of lilies for my next visit? Could the scent in her apartment help her mood, as it helped mine?
For that matter, I wonder when she last visited a perfume counter. Could a few drops of an eau de parfum on her wrists improve her outlook?
The Sensing and Sensual Environment?
As for the environmental and architectural aspects of specific scents, what’s not to love about this concept?
According to a 2005 study by Dutch researchers, people tidy up more when there’s a hint of citrus in the air. Imagine public places filled with aromatic blossoming trees and flowers… A fragrant city is a clean city.
While not a panacea to whatever may be ailing us – individually or collectively – perhaps we ought to give the power of the flower more than a second thought.
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