The architecture school at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco was only founded in 1986 and did not have its own campus until 1997. But the school—housed in a light filled old bus shed in the city’s Potrero Hill Design District—is quickly carving out a unique role for itself as a center of architectural creativity and pedagogy. The College, with its dynamic president and acting director of architecture David Gissen, seems to be trying to work forward from its Arts and Crafts traditions (the CCA itself was founded in 1907 in Oakland) but link up with the vibrant and young tech industries and attitude that proliferate in this south of Market area. A sign of this new spirit is a small but fascinating exhibit, An Olfactory Archive: 1738-1969, curated by Gissen and new faculty member Irene Cheng and designed by Brian Price and Matt Hutchinson.
The exhibit, Cheng claims, is “an in-depth, sensory exploration of one mode of experimental history: olfactory reconstruction.” It features the work of several architects, designers and “perfumers” who focus on reconstructing historical scents. It includes Jorge Otero-Pailos, who reconstructs in the show of the odors of the Glass House, and Aaron Betsky and Herzog and DeMeuron’s fragrance, “Rotterdam-Olfactory Object from 2004.”
The impetus for the show is the work done by Alain Corbin and Dell Upton, who both have highlighted the importance of odor as a historical force, from early nineteenth-century fears of miasmatic contagion to more recent concerns about air quality and pollution.
In addition to the exhibit CCA will host Test Sites: Experiments in the History of Space, a symposium devoted to exploring other alternative historical practices such as reconstructions, counterfactual histories, new media, critical conservation, and even destruction. It will feature Lucia Allais, Keller Easterling, Amy Balkin, Amy Balkin, Nicholas de Monchaux, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Mark Wasiuta. The symposium will take place CCA’s Timken Auditoirium on Saturday, October 12 from 10am to 5pm. The exhibit runs through October 13.