Sensory Maps

IMAGE: Smell Edinburgh by Kate McLean (view larger)

Victoria Henshaw, whose own urban smell research formed the subject of my last post, recently introduced me to Edinburgh-based designer Kate McLean’s Sensory Maps series. Since moving to the city two years ago, McLean has spent hours exploring it on foot and noting down both her own sensory perceptions and the observations she gathers by stopping to ask strangers in the street about Edinburgh’s unique aromas, textures, and tastes.

In the Victorian era, Edinburgh earned the nickname “Auld Reekie,” for its smog. Now, according to McLean’s map, it “emits a plethora of scents and smells; some particular to Edinburgh, some ubiquitous city aromas.” Among the latter are fish and chip shops and vomit, while the peculiar smell of the Macfarlan Smith opiate factory, the fishy pong of the penguin enclosure at the zoo, and the ammoniac stench of the boys’ toilets at South Morningside primary school are more city-specific, as is the way that the prevailing south-westerly winds distribute these smell combinations.

IMAGE: Detail of Smell Edinburgh by Kate McLean, showing both smell sources and distribution (view larger).

To accompany her smell cartography, McLean has also created Taste Edinburgh, a map made of beef dripping that charts the caloric topography of the Scottish Diet, as outlined on the website FX Cuisine:

Scotland, a beautiful small European country, is blissfully free of ageing populations. The Scots die young and don’t cling on their pensions for decades like Japanese centenaires, sucking the blood of younger generations. What’s their secret? The Scottish Diet, an age-old combination low in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in confectionery, fat enriched meat products, sweet and salty snacks accompanied by generous amounts of sugary drinks and alcohol.

The golden rule of the Scottish diet is that fat, sugar and alcohol should each account for at least 30 percent of your daily calorie intake. You may eat one serving of fruit per week, preferably as jams or preserves.

IMAGE: Taste Edinburgh by Kate McLean.

IMAGE: Detail from Touch Edinburgh by Kate McLean.

McLean’s Sensory Maps website is well worth a visit in order to check out her other, equally gorgeous maps depicting Edinburgh’s most heart-stopping vistas and its variety of textures, as well as to cast a vote for your top five Glasgow smells for her next city map.

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4 Comments

  1. Amy Cooper
    Posted February 17, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Wow! I am totally fascinated by this work and all the related links! Thanks!

  2. Chris Thompson
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Thought provoking. Surely, this provides a unique and extremely interesting opportunity to further define identity. Be it geographic or commercial …

  3. lee
    Posted January 10, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    thank you for these map ideas
    they are very helpful indeed
    i have a smeel disorder and found your idea very helpful
    could do with one for bradford
    a map that is
    cheers

  4. Morgan Daly
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Kate McLean’s sensory maps – very thoughtful and interesting. Worth more exploring and investigating.

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