A micro-to-macro expansion of and logical conclusion to Gary Hustwit’s elegantly compelling, design-in-the-everyday doc trilogy (which investigated the ubiquity of a font in 2007’s Helvetica and, if less quirkily so, the undervalued thought processes behind manufactured goods in 2009’s Objectified), Urbanized stylishly dives into the issues and tactics of shaping entire cities. Settling into the aesthetic formula of his previous features, Hustwit gorgeously enhances the talking-head commentaries of architects, policymakers, and other progressive thinkers with spatially clean, static-camera compositions—this time in God’s-eye panoramas of earth’s ant farm. Globe-trotting from the densely stacked favelas of Rio de Janeiro to bicycle-friendly Copenhagen (with stops in Bogotá, Beijing, Phoenix, and other idiosyncratically designed locales), the film efficiently zips between ideas on not just why cities look and function the way they do, but also on how communities can be engaged and empowered to improve our shared living space. Creative urban planning transforms in ways pragmatic (NYC’s former railroad-turned-park the High Line), thought-provoking (interactive street art in New Orleans), or both (chalk-art activism as an energy-saving experiment in Brighton, U.K.). Most timely is the section on Stuttgart eco protesters and the city as an expression of assembly and struggle, which should’ve inspired the occupiers downtown to build a better model.
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