A scene from URBANIZED, a film by Gary Hustwit. Picture courtesy Swiss Dots Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Urbanized (2011)

Opened: 10/28/2011 Limited

IFC Center10/28/2011 - 01/03/201268 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated


The final documentary in director Gary Hustwit's design film trilogy (Helvetica, Objectified), Urbanized features some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, and thinkers, including Sir Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Jan Gehl, Oscar Niemeyer, Amanda Burden, Enrique Penalosa, Alejandro Aravena, Eduardo Paes, Rahul Mehrotra, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Ricky Burdett, James Corner, Michael Sorkin, Bruce Katz, Candy Chang, Edgar Pieterse, and many more, including extraordinary citizens who have affected change in their cities.

Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? And how does the design of our cities affect our lives? By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects in dozens of cities around the world, from massive infrastructure initiatives to temporary interventions, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.

Director's Statement

I had the first ideas for Urbanized in 2007, when I traveled to over 100 cities for the screening tour for Helvetica. I hadn't planned on making a series of films about design, but after making Helvetica, I was thinking a lot about all the ways design affects our daily lives. This led to the second film in the trilogy, Objectified, about manufactured objects and industrial design. But the design of our cities struck me as the area of design that had the most impact on our lives. Where we live, how we get around, where we work, how we relax, what opportunities we're afforded; the physical design of the city dictates all of these factors.

But I quickly realized that it would be impossible to make a comprehensive documentary about the design of cities. There are simply too many cities to look at, and each has its own unique origin story, environmental factors, and cultural context. One could easily do a feature-length film (or series of them) about the design of any individual city. So ultimately I decided the best structure would be to look at specific issues that face all cities (housing, mobility, public space, sustainability, etc) and focus on projects in different cities around the world that addressed those issues. In that way we could make almost a composite city out of these projects, and showcase innovative thinking from both professionals and ordinary citizens.

I didn't start these films with a thesis or agenda, they've really been explorations into subjects I'm curious about. I've let the people I've interviewed for the films talk about what they thought were important topics in their field, and let those ideas shape the narrative arcs of the films. Before I started making Urbanized, I spoke with architects, city planners, academics, and developers. I went to conferences about urban issues, and soaked up as much information as I could about the state of cities today. For two and a half years, I filmed conversations with people who I thought were doing compelling work, and tried to document their creative processes. I've used social networking tools like Twitter throughout the process to get a sense of what people thought were current issues affecting their cities, to solicit ideas for projects to cover, and even to crowdsource footage.

There are so many challenges facing cities in the future: massive urbanization and population increases, creating social equity, economic development, disaster preparedness and recovery. We have no choice but to try to come up with better responses to these challenges. Urbanized only scratches the surface of some of the thinking and creativity happening at this moment in history. But I think it's critical to share these ideas between cities and citizens, and get people more involved in envisioning what kind of city they want to live in. As Urbanized participant Jan Gehl often says, "First we shape our cities, then our cities shape us."

-- Gary Hustwit, New York City, October 2011

Subject List

Udo Andriof (Stuttgart 21)

- Spokesperson for Stuttgart 21 railway project in Stuttgart, Germany

Alejandro Aravena (Elemental)

- Architect in Santiago, Chile

Jon Bird (Open University)

- Organizer of Tidy Street in Brighton, England.

Amanda Burden (NYC Department of Planning)

- City planner and zoning official based in New York City

Ricky Burdett (LSE Urban Age Project)

- Professor of Urban Studies at London School of Economics.

Candy Chang (Civic Center)

- Artist and Urban Planner based in New Orleans, Louisina.

Yung Ho Chang (Atelier FCJZ)

- Head of MIT's Department of Architecture based in Beijing and Boston.

Noah Chasin (Bard College)

- Architectural Historian, Bard College

James Corner (Field Operations)

- Landscape Architect for the High Line in New York City.

Mark Covington (Georgia Street Community Garden)

- Organizer of Community Garden's in Detroit, Michigan.

Joshua David (Friends of the High Line)

- Co-founder of community group supporting the New York City High Line.

Ellen Dunham-Jones (Georgia Tech)

- Professor of Architecture and Urban Design.

Kathryn Ewing (Sun Development)

- Urban Designer for VPUU project in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa.

Sir Norman Foster (Foster + Partners)

- Architect with International Practice based in London, England.

Grady Gammage Jr. (Gammage & Burnham)

- Lawyer and real estate developer based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Jan Gehl (Gehl Architects)

- Danish architect and urban designer based in Copenhagen.

Alastair Graham (City of Cape Town)

- Organizer of VPUU project in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa.

Robert Hammond (Friends of the High Line)

- Co-founder of community group supporting the New York City High Line.

Jacqueline James (Jonker & Barnes Architects)

- Architect of VPUU project in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa.

Bruce Katz (Brookings Institution)

- Founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Tarna Klitzner (Landscape Architect)

- Landscape Architect of VPUU in Khayelitsha Township, South Africa.

Rem Koolhaas (OMA)

- Architect, Theorist and Urbanist based in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Rahul Mehrotra (RMA Architects)

- Architect and Professor based in Mumbai and Boston.

Grover Mouton (Tulane University TRUDC)

- Urbanist and Proffesor based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Oscar Niemeyer (ONA)

- 103 year old Modernist Architect based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sicelo Nkohla (VPUU)

- Community Participation Coordinator in Khayelitsha, South Africa

Eduardo Paes (Mayor, Rio de Janeiro)

- Current Mayor of the City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sheela Patel (SPARC)

- Founding director of advocacy group in Mumbai, India.

Enrique Penalosa (Former Mayor of Bogota)

- Politician and Transportation Advocate based in Bogota, Columbia

Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities)

- Director and South African Chair in Urban Policy.

Ric Scofidio (Diller, Scofidio + Renfro)

- Architect of the High Line in New York City.

Michael Sorkin (Sorkin Architects)

- Architect, Urban Designer, Educator and Author based in NYC.

Gangolf Stocker (Leben in Stuttgart)

- Spokesperson of the Action Alliance against Stuttgart 21.