Sensory Mapping Project, Amsterdam (2020-2022)
Take Care is a collaboration between affect lab, creative cultural practitioner Roelof van Wyk, and writer-researcher Bob van Toor. Take Care’s advisory partners include Het Nieuwe Instituut, The Mobile City, STIPO, 3 Layers, The Prostitution Information Centre (Amsterdam) and We Live Here.
While much has been written about the Red Light District, one dimension is rarely discussed. The sensory. Our sensory encounters with a city define our urban experience. To understand the feel and character of the city, we need to account for its sensory dimension. Yet, we know very little about the smells, sights, touch, sounds and tastes of the Red Light District.
Smells, for example, can confirm our sense of safety and familiarity in a city, providing insights into a neighbourhood’s heritage and modes of living. The smell of perfume from boutiques in the Negen Straatjes might create a sense of exclusivity and delicacy. The smell of vomit near de Oudekerksplein may have the opposite effect. Smells do not just strike us as disgusting or comforting – they are linked to our emotions, memories and decision making. Smell affects people’s attachment and love, feelings of belonging or estrangement in their city, which contribute to the shaping of the individual and collective urban memory.
Taking the Red Light District as a primary case study, Making Sense: Take Care 1012 dives deep into the sensory experiences of the district. Specifically, we focus on two sensory experiences, what people smell and hear. By mapping these uncharted sensory-scapes and exploring new perspectives, we may examine relationships between the area’s inhabitants, visitors, creatures, material and immaterial forces in new ways; providing new insights in the district’s (lack of) social cohesion.
Our ultimate aim is to produce a number of considerations for Amsterdam policy makers and a toolkit for sensory research for the place-making community (that includes designers, architects and applied in any city. In this context, Take Care 1012 raises questions about modes of sharing space in the city through a sensory lens.
What are the dominant sensory experiences in the Red Light District? How do these experiences define community engagement with the district? How do these sensory experiences relate to issues of social cohesion? How can sensory methods positively influence social cohesion and inform decisions made by the city council?
Knowing how to ‘map’ multisensory environments is crucial for researching sensory regimes and understanding the way in which social cohesion is structured sensorially in cities. This leads to two considerations: a) how do we map and capture the ephemeral nature of the sensory, and b) how do we represent the ways in which they relate to social cohesion?