by Sawyer J. Lahr
Urbanized makes its theatrical run November 4-10 at The Gene Siskel Film Center.
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Stringing together insights from architects, urban planners, progressive mayors, academics, and social workers, director Gary Hustwit captures the essence of each city he visits with his camera crew in tow. 300 hours of footage later, the producer behind Helvetica and Objectified as well as notable music documentaries (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), has now completed Urbanized, the last in a trilogy of design films that drew a full-house of environmentally-conscious Chicago cyclists, designers, and architects at an advanced screening in October at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.
The advance screening was presented in association with Coudal Partners, IDSA Chicago, AIA Chicago. Some of the rarely interviewed famous players featured in Urbanized are iconic architects Oscar Niemeyer, Sir Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas.
During the Q&A, Benet Haller, City of Chicago Coordinating Planner for Planning & Urban Design spoke on behalf of the city’s foreseeable projects including an expansion of our rapid transit system similar to the TransMilenio system in Bogota, Columbia, which offers rapid bus service in dedicated lanes. He also said the Bloomington Trail project is a go and cited the success of the recent Kinzie street protected bike lanes between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street.
Director Hustwit suggests that urban planners and architects do not make a city great, but, rather, it is the city dwellers who must participate in the design process, a concept the design research field has been innovating for years (see IDEO, Conifer Research). As Yung Ho Chang (Atelier FCJZ) says in the film, cities do not have to be designed poorly because they are built quickly.
Population growth, climate change, water quality, and social conflict are colliding as we live and breath but the urban planner may be the agent to not lead cities into the future. The final words delivered in Urbanized are resounding; Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities) Director and South African Chair in Urban Policy says that brick and mortar will not change cities for the better; it will be an idea.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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