In memory of my dearest, Mama. I will miss you, always.
Extracting the Ephemeral /60
The Anamnesis of Being /12 The Three Notes of Scent /18 Site Appropriation /22 The Scented Journey /30
Behind the Project Author /46 Trips /50
Image Credits /104
“...something that isn’t what it seems” It all started from one comment, which then led to a windy road of exploration and gradual revelation. My intention from the beginning was to create a project that went beyond the visual sense. Architecture for me, has always been about designing experiences; memorable experiences. Architecture school has shown me that although we talk and illustrate our ideas on paper, design needs to step beyond that 2-dimensional realm. ‘The Anamnesis of Being’ uncovers the mind and explores architecture as a subjective experience through tapping into our memories... Before I go on, I must firstly thank my tutors, Tommy Joo and Kim Jang Yun for all their encouragement and support throughout the duration of this studio. Without their countless hours invested into Head Trip studio, we would not have reached as far as we have this semester.
The Anamnesis of Being.
I am here and yet, I am not. Scenes flicker before my eyes. A restless mind. I wander about. Cold concrete floors. I glance over. Her face is calm. My canvas. Red lips and a tinted glow. The rush of city traffic embalms the air. The outside world. I am unable to hold my gaze. Blink.
I paint her lips and picture a smile. A lifetime. Time. Where did the time go? Light bounces off the solid walls. Reflections of the sun. Light. Breatheâ€Ś She is here and yet, she is notâ€Ś - BBC.
Anamnesis: The remembering of things from a supposed existence. Being: Existence.
Our mortality is the truth and yet, we deny it until it happens. Life is a journey, which ultimately takes a turn and becomes inaccessible via the physical realm. It is human nature to find comfort in holding onto memories of the departed by projecting characteristics of them onto physical objects; creating a tactile gateway to the past. Our memories are stored as fragments; fragments of time and moments, that touched or affected us in unique ways and end up stored in an intangible realm; within ourselves. How do we access this place, in a time where death is barely faced? This realm is a subjective experience for all, where cues as minute as a waft of scent, can trigger and transport one self back to a particular time or place. What kind of architectural experience can enhance these memories?
“Time bears away all things, even the heart… Meanwhile, scented memories veil us in rapture”. - Diane Ackerman
This project speculates the stigma of death as something that is sensorial and sublime by accessing our inner intangible places through olfactory triggers. It explores how architecture can play a role in eliciting this intangible realm through the amplification of scented experiences. This idea presents the truth and beauty of life; whether it is pleasant or not. It looks at life as something that is cyclically returned to the earth and eternally present within us through our sensory cues.
The Three Notes of Scent.
Notes in perfumery are descriptors of scents that can be sensed upon the application of a perfume. Notes are separated into three classes; top/head notes, middle/heart notes, and base notes. Top / Head Notes First impression of the scent, perceived immediately upon application of a perfume. Top notes consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. Middle / Heart Notes Heart notes emerge just prior to when the top notes dissipate. This note makes up the main body of the perfume and act to mask the often unpleasant impression of base notes, which become more pleasant with time. Base Notes The final note makes up what appears close to the departure of the middle notes. The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume and are usually not perceived until 30 minutes after the application of the perfume.
The notion of these three transitions of perfume perception ultimately became the language of the experiential journey through the architectural program of my project.
My architectural response is reflective of the immaterial nature of memory. I asked myself, how could architecture play a part in bringing out a specific memory. What kind of program requires a sensorial journey? Architecture essentially acts as a container where our inner immaterial moments can occur and be triggered. The program of this project aims to accentuate experience. A feeling; A speculation; The power of our body and the ability to extract and abstract olfactory experiences.
For ‘The Anamnesis of Being’ is project more about experience and feeling than location however, for the sake of this project, I appropriated my hypothetical Mortuary Bath House at the Clifton Hill Shot Tower, right at the entrance to the M3 Eastern Freeway. “The rush of city traffic embalms the air. The outside world”. The old Clifton Hill Shot Tower is a historical landmark but often a forgotten one. It is a site, which is familiar to most but still holds a touch of mystery. The structure holds such a strong presence when one gazes upon it that, it felt appropriate to create a story for the site. I chose it due to this presence and familiarity. Linking a familiar site with a topic that is very familiar but most often suppressed, was my starting point.
â€œNothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.â€? - Vladimir Nabokov
â€˜Smells are surer than sights and sounds to make your hear-strings crack.â€™ - Rudyard Kipling.
â€œWe fall asleep and never wake again; Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh, Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh In earth, air, water, plants, and other menâ€? - James Thomson (1874)
The Scented Journey.
(Originally presented with scented, illustrations on plywood boards.) The sweet floral air from above has dissipated and the sun light retreats further and further away as you proceed down each step through the walled corridor. Step by step. The walls loom above you as you grow further and further away from the sky and then...
... you find yourself basking in an infinite glow of light. A low-lying mist circulates your feet. You look up and notice a figure. Her figure. Lying there peacefully, waiting for your arrival. You gather around and the movement in the room triggers the flowing mist. A towel is handed to you. Cold. Cleanse. Her body is still.
An aroma fills the air and the light from above continues to flicker across the glass bottles lining the heavy walls. For hours you remain there. Absorbing the air. Final moments. You follow the her...
â€Ś and see red. There is a change in the air. Warmth. A narrow hole of light high above you peeks down from the apex. A gateway not within reach. People gather around. Emotions are shared. The body glows and is lowered into the chasm and then â€Ś gone. Dissipated. Sublimated. But forever recollected.
You step away and follow the crowd up the stairs. A sweet floral scent greets you and fills your nostrils as you ascend back to the material world.
A drink is shared and the air feels lighter. Brighter.
The brick tower looms over your shoulder. The gateway. Something lingers in your olfactory. This, is the Anamnesis of Beingâ€Ś
Behind the Project
One of my inspirations for all things creative is Heston Blumenthal, celebrity chef from England. “I’d take a sniff and it would trigger all kinds of ideas” - HB Blumenthal’s meals are designed on a nostalgic level. A level that tugs on sensory cues beyond taste. It wasn’t so much his work that inspired me but, the level of experimentation and exploration involved in delivering his creations and the fusion of the arts and science to create a vision.
I wanted to explore my project further on an alchemistic level, fusing together elements of surprise, science, memories and sensory perception in order to create an architectural response. Alchemists were excellent apothecaries gone mad. Traditionally, they were adept at tasks like preparing headache remedies, perfumes, and other artificial devices to trigger physical effects that were suited to somebody elseâ€™s will. What if this particular alchemist yearned to collect and recreate past moments and experiences by bringing them into the physical realm? How? Perhaps by encasing the memorable fragments through scent and chemistry...
During the course of Head Trip Studio, we ventured off to landscapes beyond the grid of the CBD to witness... something. Without giving too much thought, I began extracting elements from the trips. Physical fragments of memory. I had a vague idea but scavanged the scene without too much thought into what these elements will eventually become. Together, they developed an archive of fragmented parts of a whole memory. Can we present an experience without revealing the whole? Our minds have the power to piece together fragments to form a story; a journey. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m fascinated about.
I feel like Iâ€™ve returned even though Iâ€™ve never been here. And now, I will venture back to the unknown. - BBC
Extracting the Ephemeral.
Experimentation in capturing and abstracting ephemerality was integral in the development of this thesis project. It was a challenge since ephemeral moments are after all, transitory. I started off by extracting plants from our visits to Mt. Dandenong and Point Nepean. I used the ingredients and turned them into sprays. A trip via scent. A recollection to a place, beyond sight.
I had particular elements in mind, which I wanted to capture and immerse into my project. Fire and ice. I was heavily drawn towards the polar opposite characteristic between these two elements and how they could somehow illustrate the atmosphere of the design. There is something quite beautiful about capturing a fleeting moment, frozen in time.
Oh ephemeral, we become lighter than air, taking leave of the earth, becoming significantly insignificant to everything left behind. - The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Memory is an intangible phenomenon, heavily linked to the sense of smell. My ‘Remembered’ project encompassed a reproduction of the ‘three notes of scent’ mentioned earlier; deconstructed into an ephemerally effervescent experience. The smells emitted are reflective of the Mortuary Bath House and represent the ephemeral and sensorial cleansing experience.
All images have been taken and produced by Barbara B Chung except for: Blumenthal, Heston, The Fat Duck Cookbook, p47. Le, Jannette / Choi , Seung Hyuk: pp7, 66 - 67 McRae, Lucy: p13, still image from Morphe Short Film for Aesop. Morbid Anatomy: p15, (http://morbidanatomy.blogspot.com. au/2007/09/paris-morgue-ii.html) Web Gallery of Art: p49, (http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/b/ bega/index.html)
Published on Nov 11, 2012
Design Thesis / Final project for my Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. The project speculates the stigma of death as so...