How Stinky is Your Post Code?

By Gary Cutlack on at

You might soon be able to research how much the air around your posh new city pad smells of cars before agreeing to rent it in return for 85 per cent of your salary, thanks to mappers who are collating image tags to build smell maps of urban areas.

The findings are published in the paper Smelly Maps: The Digital Life of Urban Smellscapes. The team used a total of over 150m social network images and their accompanying text descriptions to map smells to location, claiming that local smells have been "crucially overlooked by urban planners."

Their shock findings include the fact that Shoreditch smells mostly of cleaning products, while Blackfriars and Elephant and Castle smell of smoking and waste products because outdoor smoking and heavy evening socialising means cigarettes and kebabs litter the streets.

The report's authors would like town planners to consider the positive impacts that nice smells can have on our lives rather than concentrating on the grim bins/fumes aspects, concluding: "City officials do not fully consider the opportunities presented by the sense of smell simply because they have been the victims of a discipline’s negative perspective. We hope that our work might help them re-think their approaches and use olfactory opportunities to create stimulating multi-sensory places."

Which could at least make a good installation in the Turbine Hall. [Smelly Maps [PDF] via Independent]