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Environment

The Smells, Sounds, and Tastes of Future Cities

How might climate change and new technology cause upheavals in our sensorial landscape?
Hotter weather could change the crops that flourish in Shanghai.
Hotter weather could change the crops that flourish in Shanghai. Aly Song/Reuters

In the future, cities will be larger, denser, and possibly striding on huge mechanical legs. But they could also be awash in a bath of unexpected scents like tropical flowers and artificial grape, popping with cuisines made spicier by climate change, and so overwhelmed with artificial light they glare like a “strip mall in outer space.”

Those are possible realities dreamed up by Emily Schlickman and Anya Domlesky, associates at the international landscape architecture and urban design firm SWA. The duo, who helm SWA’s new innovation lab XL in the Bay Area, became interested in forecasting the shifting sensorial experiences of urban enclaves after learning that California’s iconic daily fog has cloaked the city for fewer hours since 1901. “Fog is such an iconic part of the Bay Area, and the idea it could dramatically decrease in the future could really impact how we experience and sense the city,” says Schlickman.