Kate McLean’s Sensory Maps Show How People Smell, Taste, Feel, And Hear The City

What is it about that smell? Maybe it’s not a smell you crave, but maybe it is one that you love, one that you breathe in fully to remind yourself where you are. Or perhaps it is a smell that you love to hate. Or maybe it’s not even smell at all, but it’s the touch of lightly dragging your fingers along an old stone wall somewhere in a European city or caressing the blades of grass in a park nearby. Kate McLean wants to know. She is a cartographer of senses and she maps out how people smell, taste, feel, and hear the city.

‘Smells of Auld Reekie on a breezy day circa 2011’, Edinburgh

Edinburgh-based McLean has made a series of sensory maps of cities on both sides of the Atlantic. She seeks to challenge an “ocular-centric” perception of space and introduce new ways to gather understand and navigate experiences in urban places.

The fat forms an elevation map to show cumulative fat calories injested over a day

On McLean’s website are maps of cities in Scotland, England, France, and the US and the sensual experiences encountered. In Paris people were invited to make notes of how they’ve followed their noses and McLean notes that “coffee makes people tell a story, perfume encourages people to mention other people… All smells have an emotion attached.”

Smell Map of Newport, RI

Cities are emotional places and people naturally create their own personalized journeys. Websites like Yelp.com, for example, do this by letting people write about their experiences in relation to a restaurant or store, and tourism literature often spouts sensual imagery of a place. McLean says that part of her research is looking at memorable urban tourism and the role people make in creating new “smellscapes.”

Mmm, if you could follow your nose right now, where would you go?