VIDEO: Christmas ‘smell walk’ of Sheffield

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas - as Dr Victoria Henshaw proved on a ‘smell walk’ tour of Sheffield city centre, writes Graham Walker.

The Sheffield University urban design and planning lecturer has written a book about the use of smell in good urban design – and led a walk around the city centre to coincide with it.

Sheffield Christmas smells tour with Dr Victoria Henshaw , right.

Sheffield Christmas smells tour with Dr Victoria Henshaw , right.

The walk invited people to find out more about what odours people associate with and detect in the city.

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video report by Emil Aamot.

Dr Henshaw carries out “smell walks” in cities to help people better understand the world around them by deciphering the smells that surround them.

As she does so, she finds out more about what odours people associate with and detect in a particular city, and how this influences their enjoyment of the local environment.

She has run smell walks across the UK including London, Birmingham and Manchester and in cities in Europe and the United States.

This was her first in Sheffield.

She says scent has unique qualities: ubiquity, persistence, and an unparalleled connection to memory, yet it has gone overlooked in discussions of sensory design.

Her new book, Urban Smellscapes: Understanding and Designing City Smell Environments, published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis, is an historical and practical guide to designing smell environments in cities.

The broader consideration of smell in the design, management and perception of cities is an important issue across the urban design disciplines, but also has implications for other disciplines such as public health, city marketing and tourism, she adds.

In addition, the smellscapes of towns and cities have changed significantly in the past 100 years, especially with air pollutants having a significant impact upon our experiences in a range of different ways.

Urban Smellscapes makes a notable impact on the growing body of literature on the senses and design, contributing towards the wider research agenda regarding how people sensually experience urban environments.

With case studies from factories, breweries and urban parks, this new book identifies processes by which urban smell environments are managed and controlled, and gives designers and city managers tools to actively use smell in their work.

* For further details of Dr Henshaw’s smellwalks and her work on the relationships between smell and the city, visit her blog at