This is my entry for “U” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “U” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Unforgivable Blackness and Unrest.
Release Date: October 26, 2011
Director: Gary Hustwit
Production Company: Swiss Dots
This movie is a quick jaunt through cities around the world to discuss contemporary projects in urban designs from the director of Helvetica. This includes bus rapid transit and bike lanes in Bogota, Colombia, safer routes to walk in the Khayelitsha township in South Africa, the High Line project in New York City, participatory design of low-income housing in Chile, and community gardens in a depopulated Detroit.
The movie also focuses on some bad urban design such as the inhuman scale of modernist Brasília, Brazil or the misguided attempts to rebuild New Orleans’ Ninth Ward with Southern California style bungalows. The movie takes a moment to sum up the famous battle of New York City planner Robert Moses and urbanist Jane Jacobs. And lest one think that all urban planning is positive and welcomed, the movie concludes with a conflict in Stuttgart, Germany over a plan to redevelop a railyard and train station that received intense opposition from local residents.
As someone with an interest in urbanism, most of this movie was very familiar to me, but it could serve as a good introduction to novice audiences. The way the movie skips from project to project means that it has no real focus or thesis statement. But it also resembles the urban experience in that there’s a little of everything together getting mixed together and sharing ideas.