Friday, September 30, 2011

How the Imagery of "Urbanized" Motivates Better Places

by Chuck Wolfe

As a survey text in visual form, Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized is a frank introduction to the buzz about cities in our age of right-minded sustainability. Lurking amid the narration and vignettes is a scalable world view where the car is no longer king, and community priorities rather than government mandates often set the agenda for change.
Seattle had the chance to view Hustwit’s new release last night, and in my estimation, the audience saw local issues reflected back from the screen, as will city-dwellers everywhere who attend an Urbanized presentation. Hustwit clearly succeeds in highlighting a universal cast of diverse and sometimes conflicting stakeholders who must balance and integrate ideas, technology and economic forces characteristic of an urbanizing world.
Other articles about Urbanized have set the stage well, among them a Hustwit interview in TheCityFix, a review by Christopher Hawthorne in the Los Angeles Times (who notes Southern California is missing in Hustwit’s lexicon) and a concise entry by Nate Berg on the new Atlantic Cities site.
In short, Hustwit, while not an architect or urban planner, aptly synthesizes the hottest urban issues—from carbon neutrality to safety to human-scale transportation. He employs voices of the well known, the lesser known, and fast-moving urban imagery, which guides the film from Mumbai to Santiagp, to Brasila, Bogota and around the world.
I’ve written lately about the value of imagery in conveying the messages of cities. In this context, Urbanized gives rich meaning to street scenes, infrastructure, and the single building as part of an urban framework.

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