Perfumer Laura French Recreates the Scent of London in Pollution Pods by Michael Pinsky

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Climate change is one of the most pervasive and threatening issues of our time, with far-reaching impacts in the twenty-first century,” observes the United Nations Environment Programme. In 2017, artist Michael Pinsky was commissioned by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), as part of Climart, to create Pollution Pods, with the support of BuildwithHubs, which explores how visual art affects viewer perceptions of climate change.

In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the pods will be installed at the United Nations Headquarters from Sept 21–24, during the 2019 General Assembly, and Climate Week, urging world leaders to act on climate and clean up our air. First launched at the Starmus Festival in Norway last summer, more than 20,000 have experienced the pods in cities including Vancouver, London and Geneva. The pods will also be outside the European Parliament in Brussels this October.

Putting Uncommon Sense to Work 

We collaborated on the artwork, which is composed of five connected domes. Each pod represents a city, and each takes visitors into a simulation of the pollution of five major cities, via scent, temperature and humidity, complete with an olfactory experience crafted by an IFF perfumer.

Aligned with IFF’s purpose to redefine how we live in and care for the resources of our world, together and our commitment to sustainability, it was not only an opportunity to build a bridge between art and science to help safeguard life on our planet but also an exciting way to push the boundaries of what is possible as pioneers of the senses. Each perfumer has a personal connection to the locations represented by the pods and they combined their local expertise with our proprietary palette of ingredients & technologies to create a realistic and vivid simulation of the air quality.

Discover London by Laura French 

Laura French, a junior perfumer based in our Hilversum office, in the Netherlands, “imagined standing in Piccadilly Circus in London in the middle of rush hour. The traffic is completely at a standstill and the surrounding buildings trap the car exhaust fumes, creating a well of pollution. Construction workers nearby are laying new tarmac and the smell blends with the car exhausts to create an intense atmosphere.”

Laura French
Here's what she shared about the scent she created:

Her Favorite Olfactive Memory: 

“Whenever I’m visiting London it’s the smell of the English cafes and bakeries that really tell me I’m home. The smell of hot sausage rolls and perfectly crispy bacon wafting out of the doors is so comforting.” 

How Can Pollution Pods Help? 

“It raises awareness and gets people talking about the climate issue. It can be difficult to really understand the conditions within these cities from articles or photographs and the Pollution Pods give a more shocking immersion into the impact of pollution.”

 Her Project Highlights 

“I got to experiment with fragrance ingredients that I would never normally use, since “pollution” isn’t typically what our customers look for! It was exciting to use new ingredients and to smell the creations from our other perfumers and get a better understanding of just how different the pollution is between cities.” 

The Takeaway 

“We have re-created the scent of pollution using our materials in hopes that visitors are able to experience the variation in pollution across the world and feel its impact in a real and intimate way.” 

The #PollutionPods Experience 

The art exhibit is currently on tour. Keep up with the latest news, events, dates and video here:

Follow the conversation on social media: #PollutionPods

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