October 24, 2011

"Urbanized" Film Review

     As students in Pratt’s School of Art and Design we generally focus on creating things, whether buildings, products, art installations, or graphics. We create the object rather than the environment that defines it. Similarly, we overlook the role that design plays in the formation of our cities and communities. Everything - the width of the sidewalk, the design of each park bench, the infrastructure of every highway - has been designed. Gary Hustwit's third film in his Helvetica and Objectified design trilogy, Urbanized examines the cities we live in and how they shape our lives.

     The film features urban design projects in cities around the world, with commentary by leading architects, planners, politicians, and innovators. Hustwit's selection of projects provides inspiration beyond urban planning, relevant to most any field. For the Communications Design student, check out how the Tidy Street project generates awareness of energy usage through a street-wide information graphic. Fine artists can contribute to urban design as well-- Candy Chang’s work uses stickers to facilitate conversation within her community. Placed on abandoned buildings, passerby are encouraged to write what they wish was there. Housing developments in Mumbai show a positive way to accommodate growth through participatory architecture and interior design. As far as public infrastructure goes, the pedestrian pathways in Capetown demonstrate that effective urban design can lower crime and enhance the quality of life. 

     Within Pratt’s School of Architecture, students in City and Regional Planning, Environmental Systems Management, Facilities Management, and Urban Design majors consider such possibilities on a daily basis. These students, often overlooked by the general Pratt population, are actively involved in the development of our community. Check out their Sustainable Planning Blog to keep up with PSPD news (Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development). 
     No matter what your major is, Urbanized offers plenty of inspiration. The storyline weaves together urban development efforts from around the globe with awe-inspiring cinematography. Urban design aficionados may be disappointed by how the documentary skims over the intricacies of their field, but as with Helvetica and Objectified, the film isn't meant to be an in-depth report on the status of an industry. It merely intends to bring to light the design behind our daily interactions. In this it excels, highlighting that the structure of the city itself, more than any other factor, defines the lifestyle of its inhabitants. In Urbanized, Hustwit successfully draws attention to the influence of urban design on the city that evolves from it. 

**One last note: The film concludes with a shot of our dearly beloved G train!


  1. This looks interesting even to me! That is great since I'm married to an urban planner family. Thanks. :)

  2. Thanks Pamela! If you're in the NYC area, the film is being shown at the IFC Center starting October 28. For more information: http://www.ifccenter.com/films/urbanized/