Smell and the City

Urban smell enthusiasts



Leading a Family Smell-Walk at Manchester Science festival 2013 (photo credit: Chris Foster)

This blog has been developed with a specific focus upon relationships between smell and the city, and is updated by myself, Victoria Henshaw from the University of Sheffield, and author of the book ‘Urban Smellscapes’.

My interest in smell really started back in 2008 at the start of my PhD which was originally focussed upon the sustainable design on 24 hour cities (I worked for many years in city management and development before commencing my study). Based in an acoustics department, I was surrounded by people who were exploring the positive, as well as the negative, role that sound can play in city experiences and design, and from there my interest in the senses grew. I began to appreciate that smell in particular was very rarely considered to have a positive role to play in city life, and from that point onwards, my research focus changed. I finally graduated in 2011 having completed my doctoral thesis examining ‘The role of the sense of smell in urban design’.

This blog was first established in March 2012 following the hosting of an inter-disciplinary workshop on ‘Smell and the City’ at the University of Manchester. The session, which I organised in conjunction with colleagues Chris Perkins, Dominic Medway, Kate McLean, and Gary Warnaby, sought to bring together academics and professionals from a wide range of disciplines, to discuss olfactory experiences and design. The blog acts as a way of continuing the dialogue on this topic, seeking to harness the enthusiasm and interest expressed by people who have contacted me and providing a forum where discussions can further develop and grow.

Your comments and input are very much welcomed therefore if you would like to write a piece or contribute a link to an article, or promote details of a relevant event, please do email me at, follow me on Twitter: @victoriahenshaw or follow my Facebook Page:

16 comments on “About

  1. Neha Rane
    February 14, 2013


    I read your blog and really enjoyed your articles, so I would like to invite you to join us at Glipho.

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    All the best,

  2. Pingback: Sensory Architectures (January – March 2013) | Smell and the City

  3. Pingback: Senses and the City | Interarts - Intermedia - Intersenses

  4. Pingback: My Book ‘Urban Smellscapes’ now out in the UK and 9 Sep 2013 in the US | Smell and the City

  5. Joanna
    November 4, 2013

    Hey there! I saw that you came on our blog, and I’ve a proposition for you.

    Are you agree if we put your blog’s adress on our blogroll and vice versa?

    Let me know what you think about it.

    • smellandthecity
      December 2, 2013

      Hi Joanna, sorry haven’t sorted this have been really busy will get it set up I promise 🙂

      • Natarom
        December 3, 2013

        Ok thank you! Let me know when you did it, I’ll do the same 😉

        Have a nice day!


  6. Faisal Alzamil
    December 2, 2013

    Huffouf city in east of Saudi Arabia has a very special smell all over it and all around the year.It is the largest oases’ in the desert .Surrounded with date palm trees farms from all sides .The farmers tend to burn the access palm leaves after cutting them ,which make the city and the farm smell of burned palm leaves,actually its not a bad smell .If I smell it any where else I remember Huffouf city.

    • smellandthecity
      December 3, 2013

      Hi Faisal, thanks for you wonderful message and vivid description, I hadn’t heard of this city before, very interesting!!! 🙂

  7. Kelly
    December 2, 2013

    Hello, I heard about this interesting concept on the radio today, and I have a small (or perhaps difficult, I do not know) favor to ask you.

    I was born without a sense of smell, which many people say is very unfortunate as I do not know the joy/disgust of smelling the world around me. Many have tried to explain smells to me, and so far the most accurate way to define a smell is through what the item would taste like and what color you think of while smelling it.

    I wanted to know if you had anything to help explain smelling to me.

    All the best,

    • smellandthecity
      December 3, 2013

      Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for your message. Sadly it is very difficult, if not impossible, for congenital anosmiacs (people born without a sense of smell) to imagine what smells would be like. The same is true of all the senses if you are born without them (or lose them before approx. the age of 18 months or so the literature says!). But do not worry, all is not completely lost, as smell experience is gained through both the smell receptors (it is these which do not work in your case for one reason or another) and your trigeminal nerve (the touch nerve in your face). You should still be able to experience a partial smell experience for some smells with trigeminal sensation. Typical trigeminal smells include paint, petrol, diesel, nail varnish etc. and produce a kind of tingling or numbness in your nose, and potentially even a dry tingly sensation in the back of your throat. Pepper and the peeling in of onions also feels the same. Hope that helps!

    • sylviaziemski
      April 24, 2014

      Hi Kelly, maybe try asking people to describe with textures, that has worked for me when defining smells to others. And in general – look for synaesthetes because they will find it easier to translate between senses. Best regards, Sylvia / Sense of Scent

  8. Ümit Akalan Hamlacıbaşı
    December 9, 2013

    Hi, I am a phd candidate of anthropology and my thesis will be on smell. I will do my research in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I find your blog very interesting. Because I have to discuss my subject in terms of place, memory and senses. Would like to follow your sharings. Greetings from Istanbul.

    • smellandthecity
      December 9, 2013

      Excellent, thanks for your email! By a strange coincidence I will be over in Istanbul in April with some of our Masters students from her in Sheffield, so perhaps we can meet up to chat whilst I’m over? If so please drop me an email at Thanks!

  9. Sylvia Ziemski
    April 24, 2014

    Just discovered your page through the article in WIRED. Your work is incredibly inspiring and you are so good at explaining and describing what you do. Made my week! Thank you for sharing your work and quest. Best regards, Sylvia /Sense of Scent

  10. smellandthecity
    April 24, 2014

    Thanks for the lovely message Sylvia, you made my day too, really happy you liked the Wired article and the blog. Let me know if you sniff out any good smells in your city! Victoria 🙂

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