An Architectural Time Machine That Fires Scented Smoke Rings

Young London designer Hee Park manipulates space using smell, sound, and touch.

In a 1967, J.G. Ballard published The Cloud Sculptures of Choral D, a short story about a retired pilot who pioneers the art of sculpting clouds. The story resonated with young architect Hee Park, who believes that architecture is performative – heavily reliant upon time, motion, and rhythm.


Ballard’s forty-year-old story inspired Park to start experimenting with vortex machines during his final year in architecture school. His thesis project, An Architectural Time Machine, is a series of fairly complex rapid-prototyped fog machines that send vortices of scented smoke spiralling through space. Park explains that the idea is to manipulate our experience of space using smell, sound and touch, three senses that architects tend to ignore. Each vortex creates “a visualisation of the unfolding motion of time,” says Park. “These ephemeral materials create a spatialized time-based event.”

The part of your brain that controls olfactory is closely related to your memory center, which is why smell has such power to evoke memories of places and people. Park’s “scent zones” evoke memories and sensations unique to each visitor, and no two people see or feel the same thing. The rhythmic firing of the machines, the furls of smoke, the strange scents – Park is asking visitors to use their non-visual senses to experience his spaces.

Park often uses the language of music to describe architecture. He believes that architects are choreographers, meting out space through motion and rhythm. Speaking to We Make Money Not Art, he says the machines were originally inspired by the huge subwoofers at a club: “I felt energy of sound from the speaker crashing my body… I thought invisible energy could be translated visible dynamic performance.” Park even imagines using the machines to “play” a scent symphony using George William Septimus Piesse’s obscure theory of scent-based music.

An Architectural Time Machine has been shown only once so far, but Park is planning a full-scale exhibition in London this year.

[Images courtesy of Heechan Park, h/t We Make Money Not Art]


About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.