Smelling the Future

A walk through any mall or department store in North America is typically characterized by several habitual experiences, including the routine assault of the olfactory organ by perfume stalls. But in fairness, how do you promote a product designed entirely around that most intangible of senses: scent? The answer for Toronto-based dkstudio Architects was to tap in to what their target market – millennials—seem to love the most: an interactive experience aided by cool digital technology.

Fūme Scent Lounge, a shop-in-a-shop-in-a-mall located in the Hudson’s Bay at Toronto’s tony Yorkdale Shopping Centre, succeeds admirably in making the invisible visible. The sensual, non-linear movements of a spray of fragrance are expressed through curves and spirals that twist and wisp around each other, revealing “the fractal movement of mists of perfume,” say the architects. “These forms morph into a canopy that twists and spirals as it rises from the floor and swirls high above and around the perimeter of the lounge.”

Eschewing traditional kiosks displaying bottles and spray testers, at Fūme patrons use interactive screens and digital “Fragrance Finders” to browse “scent palates.” When one is selected, a corresponding fragrance inhaler bottle with RFID readers placed on a backlit solid surface illuminates, providing all pertinent information on the selected fragrance, digitally displayed on the screen. These fragrance inhaler bottless are filled with scented crystals that patrons can smell without the annoying need of being physically spritzed by a tester.

Behind the 22-foot long bar, a series of 10-foot tall black digital towers create a virtual backdrop to the scent lounge. The slim towers stand physically separate from each other, and form multiple duties as support structures for the canopy, provide shelving for product, and animate the environment with digital branding messages: another move to attract the hyper-digitized clientele being targeted.

Conceived as a global pilot project for multi-national beauty company Coty, and executed with the help of Eventscape and Icon Digital, it will be interesting to see how successful this technology-laden experiment is in fusing digital sensibilities with a sense that seems the most tech-adverse. But since you can’t “smell” what you are going to buy online, this might be the perfect middle-ground.



Photography by Ben Rahn / A-Frame Studio