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Our environment is a world of stories. Narrative fragments of the Montreal smellscape.



By maintaining close ties with imagination and memory, olfactory fluxes, which form an intangible topography in motion, exert a significant influence on our definition of space. Smells allow a form of circulation in the temporal thickness of the environment. In other words, the fragrant harmonies we perceive allow us to evolve, by conscious or distracted mental projection, between the virtual planes of countless places we have encoded in our memory. Smells seem to offer great opportunities to restructure the reality of the individual; however the olfactory dimension is never, or at least very rarely, taken into account by architects and urban designers. When they do, it is generally to avoid and/or control potentially unpleasant emanations. Nevertheless, if smells can modulate mood, cognition, and behavior, they have the potential to become a strategic tool to reconfigure the experience we can have of a place. So, in what ways can a designer work with olfactory ecosystems? What olfactory interventions can be done in the city to secure people in mental distress? My desire to address these questions led me to conduct a field study in an area of Montréal (QC) Canada between 2011-2012. Based on a socio-anthropological approach, the method of inquiry I outlined took into account not only the reality of the individual but also the characteristics of the environment. For the collection of data in situ, I used the parcours commentés method of making a narrative in realtime from a route, which I combined with the cognitive map tool. To handle the significant quantity of data collected, I transcribed each of the commentaries of the participants on to an aerial map of land use, at the place where it was expressed. In this way, I was able to confront the reality of the individual with the reality of the space. Moreover, having dedicated one map per participant, the superposition of all maps in the end revealed the topography of a smellscape particular to the group that was representative of a collective olfactory memory. The narrative mapping procedure established to analyze the data was a very efficient tool for my investigation.
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