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Climate Change as a Design Problem

Many discussions of climate change begin at the water’s edge, in cities and towns where the rising ocean is an existential threat, or will be soon. But when he chose to embark on a series on the topic, Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times’s architecture critic, started instead with a long look at landlocked Mexico City.

The city has historically struggled to provide adequate drinking water, saddled as it is with inadequate infrastructure, a shortsighted administration and urban sprawl. The danger, then, isn’t water, but drought — which the city is at increased risk for because of climate change. “So climate change is not going to drown Mexico City. But what it does is act like a spark in the tinder.”

For Mr. Kimmelman, who has been at The Times in various roles since 1990, the title of architecture critic, which he assumed in 2011, encompasses far more than giving new skyscrapers or museums the thumbs-up or -down. Instead, he said, he seeks to examine not only the aesthetics of what we build, but how it functions in a community, how it shapes and defines where we live and work and play, and how it brings us together or pushes us apart. “To write about architecture is really to write about how we live, and the places we make. And that is inextricable from the economic and social circumstances of places we make, and also the environmental ones,” he said.

CIFOR

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