Every place I visit has its own scent: usually a layering of scents that create pure romance and transport you back to your gallivants.
I like to plan my adventures around the seasons. Although this is not always possible, it gives you a good reason to revisit a place on another occasion. When I visited Transylvania, I was two weeks shy of wildflower season. Hiking through the mountains, we saw some tiny early orchids and hellebores, and it was spongy underfoot with tendrils, buds & growth. I could only imagine the nature show I missed out on.
The scent was layered with almond blossoms, the first spring shoots, honey and heady lilac, with a distant smokiness of the charcoal burners. It’s important to remember that a trip during another season would create an entirely different scent altogether.
In Indochine, it was a combination of incense burning at the temples, refreshing lemongrass-scented cloths handed to us on arrival at Amansara, the sticky rice for alms housed in soft woven bamboo containers and lotus petals floating in large clay pots of fresh water.
In Scotland, the scents were grassy & mossy, thick with mist & water as we drove through tree-lined roads lochside, with hints of heather & wild thyme as the scapes opened to the wild western shores.
You can create layers that satisfy different senses, and give your interiors depth, dense with memories & stories. Consider a scent as much of a souvenir as an object.
I feel the same way about soundscapes and believe this is the sense that often goes unnoticed. When I am creating a commercial space, I have to consider soft & hard surfaces and see how these will control noise levels and allow sound, even footfalls, to be absorbed or not absorbed. This is just a part of my fascination with soundscapes and folly (reproduced sound).
I met a German photographer, Hans Georg Berger, in Laos who spends a lot of time with different religious communities around the world. He had been going to Luang Prabang in the late ‘70s & early ‘80s before it was open and you had to have a very official letter for permission to visit. The only way to get in was by elephant or archaic, unreliable Russian planes that were not delayed by hours, but by days. Due to these restrictions, very few people visited, and the only noise of traffic was the shuffle of sandals flip-flopping on the ground. Even though it was not my experience, it appealed to my sense of romance and this is the soundscape of Indochine for me.
At Timberyard, a restaurant in Edinburgh the owner asked me what I thought of the soundscape in the bathroom. It was a recording of one of their favourite winemakers in Italy, making all his wine by hand.
For a lot of people, music can be a useful way of instantly invoking a time and place. The sounds that affect me, though, are more the sounds of the street, the ambient sounds around me. I’ll never forget the very first time I heard the call to prayer in the early morning from my hotel room in Istanbul or, when I was with my dad in San Francisco, the plaintive tones of a lone clarinettist busking on a dark & empty Union Square.
There are things that you can’t necessarily see, but you can hear, smell & feel them and they are memories of all the things you love. These are what make a space special & personal.