Hong Kong

Sensorial Estates

‘Sensorial Estates’ conjured the evocative smells of the 'fragrant harbour' and explored how they reawaken emotions from the distant past.

Why is smell so evocative of memories of a time and place? How do aromas resuscitate so vividly our dormant emotional states? The Hong Kong entry, Sensorial Estates, sought to explore this realm of Proustian rushes from time past.

In the transient, fast-paced, sub-tropical metropolis of Hong Kong, the scents tied to its identity are as varied as its constantly changing population and landscape. “We’ve created an aromatic journey that blends stories about the emotional connection of aroma to food cultures, cha chaan tengs [Hong Kong diners], worship and the very origins of the meaning of the name Hong Kong – which translates as ‘Fragrant Harbour’ – within personal and collective memories,” said curator of design objects, Elaine Young. “We hope to remind visitors of the power of smell as a transporter and time machine. Visitors are invited to experience more about the design objects by visiting the space.”

Passing through the Sensorial Estates pavilion, visitors opened boxes of objects infused with Hong Kong aromas and smelt the scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, breathing in scents indelibly associated with Hong Kong, such as opium, egg tarts, incense or the roast ducks that hang in rows in the windows of street restaurants and tea cafes. “Every time I smell that scent,” said co-chair Wendy W Fok, “no matter where it is or what I’m doing, the emotional state it generates is the same. I could become a completely different person, have my DNA warped somehow, and that sensorial estate would still be there in my memory.”

1 of 1

Photography: Ed Reeve


Design Team:



Wendy W Fok, Camila Varon and WE-DESIGNS (Spatial), Elaine Young (Design Objects)


Wendy W Fok & Lillian He (Social Media), Camila Varon (Producer), Elaine Young (Design Objects)

Supporting Bodies:

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, London; Jeffrey Sun, New York; WE-DESIGNS, Hong Kong/New York; LAByrinth PROJECT, Hong Kong / New York

2018 Exhibitors