The Graphic Designer Who Maps the World’s Cities by Smell - The New Yorker
Smell has long been dismissed as the second-class citizen of our senses—the “most ungrateful” and “most dispensable,” according to Immanuel Kant, who, echoing Plato and Aristotle, praised vision as our “noblest” sense. But, on a recent Sunday, I spent the afternoon placing full faith in my nose, sticking it into garbage cans, restaurant exhaust vents, and within sniffing distance of my fellow-pedestrians on a stretch of the Lower East Side deemed New York’s smelliest block. The excursion started uneventfully, when I detected familiar fumes of gasoline on Delancey Street, but turning onto Eldridge toward Broome I confronted a pungent, intriguing miasma of garlic, cigarette smoke, rotten melon, roasted meat, and plastic. I trailed this scent to further whiffs of steamed dough and menthol outside a massage parlor, then got distracted by a cloud of incense and darted after it in pursuit—directly into the path of an oncoming biker, whom I admittedly hadn’t smelled coming.