The Scent of Other Worlds

Lumen Crypt Gallery, March 2019

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Have you ever stepped off a plane in a foreign country and marveled at the exotic smell? Each country and airport has its distinct and evocative odour. This is caused by climate, materials, atmospheric pollutants, cuisine, people and the personal hygiene products they wear. Now think how remarkably different the smell of other planets might be....

It’s with this inspiration Bompas & Parr collaborated with perfumers, chemists and astronomers to create the scents of other planets, installed within Lucy’s sculptures.

The composition of the smell of other planets has been determined by a number of different means. Research devices have visited the surfaces of some planets such as Mars and Venus. This has given us accurate measurements of the thin atmosphere enveloping Mars (100 times less dense than Earths and almost entirely composed of CO2) and a good knowledge of the swirling clouds of sulphuric acid that surround Venus.

From Friday 1st March to Sunday 3rd March 2019 a unique immersive sensory experience came to London which allowed people to visit the planets in our solar system through the use of smell, sight and sound.  Part of Virgin’s Live Life Better content series, the event was curated in partnership with leading multi-sensory designers Bompas & Parr.

The three-day exhibition, at Lumen, a gallery located in a crypt beneath St. John’s Church, allowed visitors to step inside a stylised planetarium where the planets of our solar system were rendered in sniffable sculptures by artist Lucy Hardcastle with the scents being composed by Design in Scent. Visitors also experienced the sound and sights of other worlds through an interplanetary soundscape conceived by Louise Beer and John Hooper and sensorial visuals.

Sam Bompas said: “We wanted to create a sensory exhibit that provokes the same sense of awe and wonder we’ve all probably felt when gazing up into the night’s sky.”

Lisa Thomas, Chief Brand Officer, Virgin Group said: “We’re always looking for ways to create new and incredible experiences and this event will give people the opportunity to experience an interplanetary journey first hand. The crypt location is particularly relevant; Virgin itself was started in a crypt!”

Virgin is famous for creating out of this world experiences and whilst Virgin Galactic's test programme is going from strength to strength, this sensory experience will inspire new conversations and ideas on what that truly means.