[Update] I wrote this post a few weeks ago, at that time Oscar Niemeyer was still living. As the358 points out in the comments, Oscar Niemeyer has since died.
Recently, I watched Gary Hustwit’s Design Trilogy on Netflix, and I thought the last the last film, 2011’s Urbanized, would be something this blog’s readers would be interested in. The film interviews city planners, architects, politicians, and activists – among others – on the topics of urban design and cities against the back drop of cities around the globe. I’ve been extremely interested in this topic for almost a decade, and still a lot in the documentary was new to me.
The topics are pretty varied: sanitation in Mumbai, safety in South African townships, sprawl in Phoenix, and socially just transportation in Bogota to name just a few – but all are interesting, and the cast is pretty impressive. Who could be better than Oscar Niemeyer himself comes out to make a case for Brasilia’s design (by the way, here’s a list of things younger than Oscar Niemeyer)? Bogota’s Mayor, Enrique has some of the best quotes in the piece. My favourite:
People seem to imagine parking is a … fundamental right… So if you ask me where you should park, the mayor can tell them it’s almost as if you ask[ed] me where you should put your food, or your clothes. This is not a governmental problem.
The movie seems to be trying to take a balanced approach, but the advocates for “New Urbanism” are more numerous and more effective than the advocates for other approaches to the subject. Jane Jacobs also gets covered in favorable way. I’m okay with that, but if you want something that celebrates sprawl as much as it celebrates density, you won’t get it from Urbanized.
Also, the film leaves a lot of history out, which is unfortunate. It also has a lot of discussion on aesthetics and function, but not much on regulation or zoning. Of course this doesn’t make the film less worth watching, but it does leave me with my major complaint: this is pretty awesome 90 minute documentary, but I think it would be even better as a Ken Burns-style PBS documentary.