Downtown Los Angeles has a long history whose layers are concealed today through vast asphalt parking lots, bustling markets, and industrial spaces. To uncover these memories, we turned to our sense of smell as a way of exploring and preserving the forgotten past. 

SALT teamed up with the Institute of Art and Olfaction to explore the relationship between landscape as it relates to memory, and to distill the cultural narratives and forgotten ephemera embedded in this ever evolving city. Through research, conversation, and collaboration with people connected to the various eras - descendants, historians, and first-hand experts - we set out to identify and extract both the tangible and intangible elements related to particular moments in time and capture it in the creation of a unique series of scents.

Our research was centered around the site of ROW DTLA - the location where our historical findings and scents were put on display for a live event at the 2019 Los Angeles Design Festival

For more information on this project, visit

Photography by Michael Wells
The Yaangna

Spanish Missions

1876 Citrus + Railroads

1917 The Terminal Market

Industrial Reuse

The Row DTLA

Our exploration focused on five eras in the evolution of the project site and surrounding area, beginning with the native lands prior to 1781 and ending in the current site use today. Through our workshops, we created custom scents that represent both the natural and man made elements that define each time period, invoking everything from tangy citrus groves to human toil, from train engine soot to fresh fruits and vegetables, from soap to sagebrush. 
We would like to recognize and extend a huge thank you to our workshop participants who brought a tremendous amount of expertise to this project.

Saskia Wilson-Brown, Founder at the Institute of Art and Olfaction
Matthew R. Teutimez, Tribal Biologist with the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians of the Kizh Nation
Michael Holland, Vintner and City Archivist
David Boule, Historian and Author of The Orange and the Dream of California
Glen Creason, Historian and LAPL Map Librarian
Iris Alonzo, Founder of

Participants at the LA Design Festival opening night block party were able to experience the scents in person.  Our project team members were each assigned an era and handed out custom bookmarks that noted the time period and a brief overview of the respective landscape history. 

Whether natural, related to the local flora and fauna, or artificial, in the sense of revealing the presence and activities of man, odour constitutes an essential component of the character of a place. There really are smellscapes. The moment you get off an airplane, Korea smells of kimchi, Tahiti smells of its indigenous gardenias, Dakar smells of dried fish: for natives or frequent visitors, this guarantees an emotional response of the “Proustian experience” variety; for newcomers, it results in a more or less pleasant shock because of its unfamiliarity.  Almost everything still remains to be understood in this area ... A whole segment of a society’s imaginative world is revealed in the odour of its environment.
- Jean-Robert Pitte, 1998

SALT Landscape Architects
448 S Hill Street, Suite 708
Los Angeles, CA 90013
+1 (213) 234-0057

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