The City of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is truly a picturesque place. But it is also a city full of fascinating stories of de- and re-odorization.
In the context of the Y Think Tank at Tongji University in Shanghai, this workshop provided the opportunity to experience the ephemeral materiality of scents and smells and to reflect of its cultural and economic relevance.
Explore the old town of Bern by nose: How does Bern smell today? What stories do the fragrant and the foul smells in the city tell? How does smell permeate life in the city?
The Urban Scent Walk explores the old town of Bern as a smellscape and an olfactory exhibition: informative, discursive, performative. The guided walk opens up unfamiliar facets in spaces of everyday life. The Situationists spoke of “dérive”, meaning the exploration of cities by wandering through varied environments: natural scents, cloying designer fragrances, fresh site-specific interventions, and cosmetic urban smells.
Odors are hardly ever specifically noted, although they interact with each breath: in a direct manner, volatile molecules produce the moods that characterize the atmosphere of the city. “Smells make it possible to identify locations and to identify with places,” says the philosopher Gernot Böhme. In other words, the nose brings experience that the eyes, mouth and ears are shut out of.