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The Perfumers' District

Part 2 Project 2010
LorèNe Faure
Ecole Spéciale d'Architecture de Paris | France
This project was driven by the investigation on immateriality and the evanescent quality of smell. The perfumer’s district -located in Cheapside London- is composed of a distillery and a luxurious perfume shop, as well as offers both indoors and outdoors public spaces.

The building design plays on the notion of seduction and attraction, luring people from the surroundings by releasing small amounts of the distilled flower oil into the air. Without at first seeing the building, our nose already detects its presence and an emotional response is initiated.

Smell is a powerful trigger of memory, and while visual images can be forgotten, olfactory images do not fade with time; they remain intact and can resurface insensitively.

Designing with natural air currents and playing with textiles to delimit shifting boundaries between different olfactory atmospheres contributed to stating that an architect’s design doesn’t end with materiality.

The building is a living entity that breathes and produces smells, giving it its very unique olfactory identity. Just like men, it has a ‘buffer zone’, an aura that is surrounding it with its own smell, an olfactory identity that is its and its alone. This buffer zone is created by the odours of the materials used to construct it - steel, glass, copper, textile -, odours of the site - grass, flowers, pollution, cars -, odours of the people visiting the building, and of course the odours of the distillation process.

The play with steam (naturally present in the distillation process) enabled me to achieve the desired playfulness of immateriality. The roof acts as the distiller element, thus filling up with steam; and by playing with natural and artificial light the roof seem to de-materialises to becomes a hazy, bright, blurred element.

The building’s identity shifts. It mutates from material to immaterial: it takes a stand on our current ocular centric society, stating our total loss of physical interaction with architecture. By blurring the boundaries and de-stabilising the body it aims to make us reconnect with our senses and most importantly smell, that we tend to put aside in all experiences.

LorèNe Faure

In my capacity as (regular) Visiting Professor at the Ecole Speciale d’architecture in Paris I have for the first time there, undertaken the role of Thesis Tutor.
Yet my remarks are in the framework of the criteria and level of achievement attainable at the Bartlett, the AA, Columbia or anywhere else that I have taught :-

Lorene is an exceptionally talented student : very mature and ‘knowing’ in her intellectual processes – phenomenal - bearing in mind her youth. She has the ability to draw analogies between considerata that demonstrate both overview and wit. On the face of it modest and circumspect - in tutorial she exposes a rapier-like insight and no little wit.

Of course, it will be the sheer quality and elegance of the (computer-generated) drawings that will strike one, yet these particular works are considered and manipulated through several stages : modified towards an ideal and verbally describable state, that leaves her always reaching for greater and greater quality or definition.

In selecting the subject of perfume and smell (the almost visually intangible), she is setting herself a conundrum. In locating it in a sensitive part of London she is tempting fate. (Though a French citizen, she lived in London for a few years before attending the ESA).

Thus it can be interpreted as the love-hate-love relationship of the Parisian-Londoner with the value systems and sensibilities of both cultures. In selecting ‘perfume’ itself, she is drawing attention to this convergence.

She designs and draws like a dream : with phases of considerable confidence and then, almost anticipating the tutorial questioning, homing-in on a weak point or a puzzling issue. I recommend in particular her written Thesis report which is highly sophisticated and well balanced – whilst also being as beautiful as the drawings.

She would be at the top of any of the three schools mentioned above : at the ESA she has had the benefit of being taught by some of the people imported by Mme Odile Decq – its Director during the last 3-4 years : yet in the end it is her own effort and understanding that has taken advantage of the situation through a digital culture.



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