Urban smell enthusiasts
Manchester’s First ‘Penguin Pool’
Earlier this month, Manchester became the first British city outside of London to play host to the ‘Penguin Pool’: a global creative programme of networking events, organised and hosted by international design firm Arup. The events are named after the Penguin Pool famously designed by company founder Ove Arup in 1935, for London Zoo and sadly never used by the penguins as they refused to move back to the pool following their relocation during the construction period!
The focus of the evening event was sensory design and creativity and was attended by almost 100 of Manchester’s buzzing creative sector including those in architecture, art, film, television, design and other creative industries. ‘Smell and the City’ played a key role, and I had the delight of delivering one of two keynote presentations, the other presented by no other than my lead PhD supervisor (PhD 2008-2011), Trevor Cox: Professor of Acoustical Engineering at Salford University and a familiar name if you’re a regular listener on Radio 4. Trevor presented on his research exploring different weird and wonderful sounds in the environment and concluded with an astounding recording of what he suspects to be the most sound-reverberating space in the world, with a low frequency reverberation of 2 minutes. I presented on the different smell experiences that can be found in cities around the world, and warmed up people’s nostrils with an array of scents including that of ‘Oud’ a perfume ingredient used commonly in perfumes from the middle east, but less familiar to westerners (my youngest son described it as smelling a little like manure), a sample of a very unusual and distinctive new scent by Gorilla Perfumes based on the Beat Generation (a combination of tobacco, leather, wood and food ingredients to name but a few) and the smell of frosty Christmas (sold on UK high streets up and down the country).
In addition to the keynotes, attendees were treated to an especially commissioned sensory installation created by local artist Liam Hopkins of Lazerian creative design, who developed a unique space-aged installation made of recycled television casings that looked amazing when back-lit by Arup’s lighting design team. Liam also exhibited a selection of rugs representing the human nervous system. Experimental food was cooked on the stage in front of guests using freezing techniques or the ‘anti-griddle’ and live music was provided by an up and coming young Manchester band.
The event marked the first of three Penguin Pool events to be held in Manchester, and a short film including some of the highlights of the event will be available over the next few weeks, watch this space! If you want to view my presentation on smell and the city specifically, click here.
For further details on the international series of Penguin Pool events, click here.