OfficeUS Scents

June 4 – November 21, 2014

By Christophe Laudamiel for OfficeUS


OfficeUS Scents is a project by Christophe Laudamiel commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture for OfficeUS at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia as part of the U.S. Pavilion project. The project constructs olfactory spaces for the five rooms in the OfficeUS as a sensorial historiography and critique of the projects and offices contained in the Repository and as a spatial materialization of the functions contained in each room.


Room 1: 1914-1960:

While historical records allow us to understand the past through the reconstruction of visual, textual or material portraits and approximations of physical and measurable conditions, the history of scents is still an uncharted historical territory. While other senses have undergone a process of rationalization and scientific quantification and representation, including vision, hearing (from music to the spoken word), and touch (through temperature), smell has been difficult to quantify and measure.  Olfactory records are still today hard to find even when recognized as one of the most powerful tools for space-making.


“The Book Thief,” the first scent of OfficeUS, is a scent that transports the visitor from the Giardini into an imaginary fictional past, filling the room that displays the first five decades of U.S. architectural work produced abroad. Made of wooden and fabric leather shades, “The Book Thief” scent transforms and transports the olfactory space of the visitor into an early 20th century office of wooden desks and leather books.



Room 2: 1961-2000:

In an imaginary hyper globalized context, where people, buildings and foods, will extrinsically be all the same, one of the discerning aspects and qualities of cities and territories will be associated with the scents that emanate from the local mix of land, air, vegetation and built matter.


The range of locations, styles, politics and economics of buildings produced by US firms around the world during the second half of the twentieth century is mostly characterized by the corporate office building of air-conditioned spaces and high reflections facades. The oil boom of the 60’s propagated an architecture of glass and steel that remained mostly isolated from its context. “Nerolito No 2” borrows its name, “small Neroli” in Italian, from “Neroli”, the jargon term used by perfumers worldwide to describe Orange Flower Essence, one of the best-accepted scents worldwide common to many cultures and discernible by young and adult bodies. According to scientific studies, citrus smells are aromatic assets that produce a relaxing effect curbing stress and anxiety. “Nerolito No 2” appears in the section of OfficeUS where office buildings do not appear only as buildings but also as the carries of a culture of work, production and modern life detached from physical and emotional contexts.  While emotional distress and contextual isolation is still present in the work environment worldwide, new research in work environments, like the new headquarters for Facebook, is indeed closer to the orange orchard field. 


“Nerolito No 2” also contains the woody-frankincense molecule found naturally in orange peel, Bergamot oil from Italy, Sicilian Mandarins, a brushstroke of moss and blond vetyver soft notes.  Thus “Nerolito No 2” is at the same time a global scent and a reminder of the forgotten olfactory spaces that buildings erase.


Room 3: Rotunda:

The emergence of digital work and new social habits that allow us to work anywhere, anytime, has consequently blurred the distinction between work and play, leisure and duty, reprogramming and dematerializing traditional spatial demarcations, with a tendency for all activities to converge ultimately into one space: the bed. A place where the love and lust for work and life can equally be performed is in the rotunda of OfficeUS, induced with “Drape No 20,” a scent that perpetually constructs the feeling of fresh blankets, of a perfect now, of omnipresent newness and “nowness”.  


Room 4:
2001-2008:  SPACEWOOD No 40SUS

While the sense of smell is often associated with memory, scent operates as any other language participating in the construction of new cognitive territories. Our sensorium constantly tries to make sense of smells, associating them to past or acquired experiences, yet there are new smells that, when not attached to new experiences, might be able to trigger a new, uncharted and perhaps future space.  While language constructs new words through neologisms, composite figures or borrowings, new scents can be constructed by understanding what different and new associations they enable within our sensorium. The correlation between the scent and its perceived significance or meaning is more complex than the direct correlation between words and meaning. Violet Leaves, a precious ingredient only to be found in farms near Egypt and one of the economy motors for the farmers for that region, smells like fresh cucumber; Blue Chamomile smells like plastic and rubber and Polygonum essence and Cilantro molecules smell, for instance, quite electric.  


“SpaceWood” has been designed with Bergamot coupled with anis, hawthorn and acacia flower notes that ultimately produce a neon-green and yellow landscape that occupies olfactory spaces yet to be learned, apprehend and understood. As an experiment for the visitor and for OfficeUS, “SpaceWood” is yet to be described.


Room 5:
2009-2014:  SQUEEZE ME B FULL 2, or how to project a freshly squeezed lemon onto the walls

A constant olfactory experience is conditional to a constant state of change. The mechanisms of our olfactory system function in such a manner that our body stops registering scents over a certain time of exposure as a way to adapt to contextual conditions and be able to sense change. The fifth room of OfficeUS, which encompasses the kitchen of the experimental office, smells as if one is slicing a lemon, constructing a background scent that allows all of the scents emerging from the kitchen to be revealed within this fresh neutrality.


Scents at OfficeUS are displayed by microprecise scent players from AirQ, a Prolitec brand, based in Milwaukee, WI, USA:   



The project is sponsored by Prolitec and DreamAir.