Dwelling on Cities, Gary Hustwit, Urbanized

Riding down Devon Street, on the way to Wrigleyville’s celebrated Music Box Theater, mothers wrapped in saris guide their children along by the hand. Cabs lurch from cross-streets attempting to join the main traffic line heading uptown. The sun slings low in the West beaming off building facades, some outfitted from the 1970’s with large, conventional, yellow-tinted lightbulbs wrapping marquees advertising Punjabi cuisine.

Feet have no fear of the sidewalks, neither people’s hindquarters of public benches. Faces greet known neighbors, and peer curiously at strangers. Bodies enter grocery stores and exit Bollywood movie variety shops. Arms carry gifts of jewelry and clothing from South Asian themed boutiques. Heading South on Clarke Street, the drive turns through a completely new global community. These way markers display the contours of City life.

Design By Design

An Urban Planner’s delight, Gary Hustwit takes his previous glances at how design influences us, in Helvetica and Objectified, and magnifies them to City scale in his latest work Urbanized. Never looking to impose definitions on his audience, Hustwit lets decision-makers, and descion-shapers, discuss the finer points of city design imperatives from perspectives in their corner of the globe.

Since cities rise and fall around economic and social activity, the forces guiding both pull tight the philosophical threads along the continuum of urban design practice. Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses and Oscar Niemeyer place major landmarks on the dialog. Hustwit then captures reverberations of these themes within contemporary echoes of the activist, developer and high modernists.

Urban champions, like Bogota’s former Mayor Enrique Penalosa, enrich the discussion of cities further and, more importantly, highlight practical quality of life considerations that make America’s civic values and local politics look ridiculous in comparison. Milwaukee, although not featured in Urbanized, benefited greatly from Mayor John Norquist’s experiments with New Urbanism, giving sweet kool-aid from which future domestic urban champions could develop their own flavors.

Providing more than a primer on Urban Planning, Urbanized also logs Hustwit’s travels during production of his previous two films. The cinematography energizes wanderlust as Hustwit wisks from Brighton, UK to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (I bet you can’t guess which is older) and a bunch of famous and not so famous stops in-between.

Urbanized screened in Chicago last weekend, stopping next in London on October 21st.

Related Post
John Norquist Milwaukee Tour – Congress for New Urbanism, Jeramey Jannene, Urban Milwaukee

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