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The final entry in Gary Hustwit's impressive design film trilogy is aptly entitled "Urbanized." This documentary is a uniquely fascinating look at how urban design across the globe is shaping the future of our cities. In his previous documentary features within this series, he has looked at typography (Helvetica) and every day objects (Objectified) in new and interesting ways. While neither of those films seemed to have a particularly sexy topic (especially typeface!), Hustwit managed to pack both films with surprisingly entertaining stories and unusual facts. "Urbanized" take perhaps the largest theme and gives us a peek at many cities around the world to show how vital planning and design execution has been in dealing with their everyday problems. And while I was never less than captivated by this appealing presentation, the topic was so incredibly broad. As such, the all-encompassing nature of the film causes it to lack focus (or seem to) as we jaunt from country to country tackling incredibly diverse issues.

From tales of overcrowding, to city sprawl, to surface beauty, to functional layouts, to transportation, to public safety, to environmental impact--this is just scratching the surface of the many themes brought up in the film. Each topic is presented in a different city with local personalities (be they architects, planners, politicians, artists, or activists) contributing to whatever the discussion may be. I was genuinely involved in just about every story in the 85 minute film, but even if something might not strike your fancy--just wait a few minutes, and you'll be off to a new destination. I'm not entirely sure that everything was effectively tied into urban design as a cohesive central topic, but the movie was engaging and intelligent and kept my interest. It just lacked a little unity.

That said, I certainly recommend the film for anyone with an interest in local politics. For me, the individual contributions from a practical standpoint offered more resonance than those from a design perspective. Where public concerns and functional needs had to be addressed by local government or citizenry provided much of the meat and drama within the film. As our cities continue to grow, it makes sense to look at how this population influx will affect these urban centers. How we adapt will be crucial to the future success of these cities. "Urbanized" introduces a lot of interesting topics, gives them a cursory look, and leaves you with a lot to think about. KGHarris, 2/12.
0Comment16 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Bought this for my son. If you are in the mood for a documentary, it's a good one he said. He really enjoyed it. His favorite segment was about a mayor in South America. It was entertaining and enlightening. Topics include safety, transportation, housing etc. but not education.
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"Urbanized" is the third film in Gary Hustwit's Design Trilogy, which examines the design behind things that we rely upon every day, beginning with "Helvetica" (2007), about one of the world's most ubiquitous fonts, followed by "Objectified" (2009), about the industrial design of everyday objects. "Urbanized" looks at the issues that modern urban design must meet in our increasingly populated cities. Urban design is such a complex subject that an 85-minute film can hardly do it justice, so "Urbanized" offers an overview of the challenges and innovative solutions facing the world's cities, whose population is expected to increase by 50% in the next 40 years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 10% of the world's population lived in cities. At the end of the 20th century, 50% did. In 40 years, it is expected to be 75%. The pace of urbanization has been such that one-third of new urban dwellers live in slums without basic amenities. This clearly presents huge challenges for urban designers, strains resources, and strains people's ability to adapt. "Cities are always the physical manifestations of the big forces at play: economic forces, social forces, environmental forces," as the film says. Urban design is also unique in that it is collaborative, an ongoing project in which architects, developers, government agencies, the public, and various interest groups work with and against each other to create the world in which we live.

"Urbanized" speaks with architects and urban designers on five continents, as it explores issues of housing, transportation, energy consumption, and popular opposition to building projects. Any one of these topics would require its own film to impart an understanding of the issues involved and to look at successful solutions. "Urbanized" introduces us to these subjects but covers some issues better than others. A tour of Bogatá, Columbia's transportation solutions with former mayor Enrique Peñalosa is fascinating, while the film barely touches on energy and sanitation innovation. I didn't enjoy "Urbanized" as much as "Helvetica", partly because a documentary about one font has enough time to really cover the subject, whereas "Urbanized" is cursory, but it is thought-provoking.
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on December 15, 2012
As a huge Architecture and Design, and Film buff,the pairing of these two together is a great little film to watch. If you have designer furniture,or goods, then the whole series of these films are fantastic. Nothing better than sitting in a Le Corbusier chaise,having a nice cold frosty beverage, and kicking back to watch an interesting flick on urban design. highly recommended, very enjoyable and insightful. cant ask for more than that.
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on January 22, 2013
You don't have to be an urban planner to appreciate what this video has to show you about urban living in a good range of cities on the planet. I like the visuals, the walking discussions, the interviews, and the insights. Well worth watching.
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on July 1, 2012
Urbanized, like Objectified (Hustwit's previous film), is an interesting but diffuse film that takes on too much and fails to communicate a clear message. Maybe Hustwit wants this to be an incomplete conversation starter, but his talent for capturing and arranging fascinating material should be put to better use. Neither film approaches the simple beauty of Helvetica, in which Hustwit addresses a clearly defined topic deftly and succinctly.

I would rather have learned well the complexities facing Detroit OR Rio de Janeiro OR Beijing OR Johannesburg. The film's closing sequence about conflict over a massive redevelopment project in Stuttgart exemplifies the problems Hustwit creates. The footage and interviews are inconclusive, and the final moments about the segment are overlaid with a few lines of type that appear to explain what happened, but those lines actually leave questions just as large as those they answer. The topic simply isn't adequately addressed, and it's unclear what Hustwit meant we should take away from this portion of the film.

Hustwit's general topic seems to have been the difficulty of urban design and the necessity of including the needs of ordinary people in it. But by creating a summary view from 30,000 feet, Hustwit makes it difficult to follow his argument. The film is exquisitely shot and artfully edited, the sound design is right on for a breezy documentary, but Hustwit could have done so much better with the material by focusing on one city. He could have taught much more about urban design with one city as he did about typefaces with Helvetica.
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on December 28, 2012
This became available on Netflix about a week after I rented it on Amazon. Doh! Still, a great documentary about the design of our modern world.
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on March 18, 2013
part of a must see trilogy along with Objectified and Helvetica (maybe the best of the trio). . . .
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on November 5, 2012
In 2008, for the first time, more than half of humanity lived in Urban environments.
And by 2030, more than 60 percent will (almost 90% in North America), and more than 75% of economic activity will be from Cities.

This documentary shows the ultimate design challenge - the Design and Planning of Modern Cities. Design beyond the aesthetics and how it influences our daily lives. A must-see!
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on April 17, 2012
Great film. The 85 minutes went by quickly, I was riveted the whole time. Well made with very interesting people. And wow, they interviewed some amazing people!
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