Urbanized is a documentary film directed by Gary Hustwit and released on 26 October 2011 and considered the third of a three-part series on design known as the Design Trilogy, the first being Helvetica about the typeface and the second being Objectified about industrial design.
The documentary discusses the design of cities, looking at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers.
Participants of the movie discussion started with sharing their general feelings, some watched the movie several times already, for some it was the first time, but all agreed, that the movie made them think about many things. It was interesting to explore how urban planing is working, or not; although it was a bit disappointing, that there was a bit pessimistic end and there was no “where are we going now” moment, also they lacked green perspective. The movie makers don’t go into what are the causes of the economic aspects of this design.
It was important to see how architects, communities, business worked together and against each other, while shaping the city.
The participants discussed what are the cities, why do we have them and is urbanization unevitable?
They say that in future 40 years around 80% of world population will live in the cities. Why is this happening? Is it only because of social goods, public services etc, or there is something else behind this? for example, why do people move to Mumbai?
Some thought that it’s people’s nature to shift towards living in the cities. Ever since the “Greek polis”, Once we build those cities, they attract more and more people. They are incubators of cultural, social, economical and political innovations.
It’s not a real choice to live in villages. The cities are future not only because of the demographics, but the politics. Mayors have more influence over our day-to-day life than heads of state.
Others didn’t agree and said, that there are many different points to be raised: the question of power and wealth distribution – we aren’t eating food from villages any more, this is why they aren’t economically sustainable any more, and this, in addition to other factors, causes migration to the cities. We are not “born” to live in the cities and big dehumanized buildings. Especially in inhumane conditions like in Mumbai. It’s said in the movie, that if we don’t plan, more and more people will end up in slums. Villages themselves should be motivated to develop their own micro economies and to be sustainable. In villages they can’t find jobs, they don’t have land in villages, the main way to earn is to sell their work. In this case social housing is really important. There are many of those projects in US, that start very good, but end up as a slum. People who live there do not have jobs, so they have to make their living on grey part of the law.
We also tackled the point that there almost was not ecological discourse, what is definitely a risk as well as concentration only on Economics and vise versa.
We didn’t agree what is the sustainable and “golden” number of the population amount.
But why people move to the cities? In late 70ties and early 80ies cities started to develop, emerging as main industrial spots. Marx explains: there was no difference between cities and villages before. But people have started getting used to accumulating capital for the rich ones.
We also couldn’t agree, if we can have a sustainable city. We decided, that we need to look wider: what is the city area, why do people migrate there?
Participatory Design – does it really work?
We liked participatory design as a tool, but we are not so sure, if it’s possible to implement this kind of projects in every corner of the world. It looks like public-private partnerships and in the end people are being forced to buy more and more. We need more democracy, while building housing, but not in this way.
On the onther had, some countries, for example, Georgia has large ammounts of empty blocks, while young people cannot afford housing, they have to work in a difficult environment, to afford any livable space.
In former Yugoslavia everyone had social houses – factories and firms gave flats to their workers. This is how jobs should be connected with urban housing. This particular example is reminded us of neoliberal concept of getting loans only for one thing – education or house? Usually, by gaining these type of rights in the neoliberal system, one has to lose some other rights (e.g healthcare) and this is not an optimal solution.
Discussing the case of community garden, we realized that this doesn’t really fully solve the problem of food supply, it is more a way to bring people together and momentum of socialization, sharing, solidarity. Community gardening will not solve urban problems.
There are some community gardens in Tbilisi and Belgrade.
The high line park
It’s a park which is built on an ex-train road (Manhatten). In 1980-es they stopped using this railway and planned to take it down. On the community meeting citizens decided to save the high line. Now there’s a public park. Level is above the city, so you can watch the cars from up. It was a good investment for the city – profitable project at the end, but at the same time this is a perfect example of gentrification. It is mentioned in the movies that the district became more “safe” and popular, even tourists visit it to see the High Line. It looks pretty nice in the movie, but what’s behind that?
Additional videos about the High Line Park:
Transport in cities
How does the transport work in the cities? We had 2 examples: Bogota – bike lines and special public line buses; very nice examples. Copenhagen and bicycles: problematic; it is not very safe, but it is mostly in the city center and for the white, middle class, middle age people. In suburbs and peripheries people are forced to use cars still, because there is no industry for bikes. In this case, public transport and bicycles are only for the privileged and poor people have to pay for bus or have the car. In big cities less wealthy people are forced to live in the peripheries due to low incomes, but then they cannot bike from there to work, the distance is too big, and quite often the public transport is not so user-friendly.
Brilliant idea from the movie: when bus has 100 places, it replaces cars for 100 people. This is why Milenia project is great. They undemonized the term, or let’s say created, new, positive image of the public transport – in this case buses, that have their very own line.
Not adequate for someone’s social status, but the idea of human dignity and destigmatization of public transport is good.
It is in our best interest to make sure that citizen care about the local administration and local policies, which shape the streets where they live in.
Democratic inclusion of citizens in decision-making on public spaces should be ensured. Urban gardening won’t solve any major economical or environmental issues, but can bring to the sense of community, solidarity and sef-sufficiency which we as people are lacking in the modern, urban, neoliberalised wold.