The Architect's Newspaper: Experimental Histories at CCA

Such alternative historical practices were the subject of a recent pair of events held at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, both sponsored by the school’s Masters program in Design Theory and Critical Practices. The first was an exhibition entitled An Olfactory Archive: 1100-1951, curated by David Gissen and designed by Brian Price and Matt Hutchinson, that explored scent as a medium of historical reconstruction. Suspended in a lightweight steel frame occupying the school’s cavernous Nave were eighteen glass cloches, each encasing a waft of the past: manure in a French countryside, salt air, coal soot from the early industrial era. The efficacy of this unusual presentation of the past quickly became evident, as students and visitors seemed almost magnetically drawn to the cloches. Those who ordinarily might not pause to read a wall text about 14th century Dutch polders, say, nevertheless stopped to take a whiff of them.

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