Image: Dharavi slum outside of Mumbai, India
First, he started small in Helvetica, showing how something so simple as a typeface can shape how we process the world. Then the circle widened in Objectified as we learned about the objects that surround our daily lives and the design process behind them. Now the third film in Gary Hustwit's design trilogy goes much larger by taking a look at the way design most effects our daily lives: the structure of our cities.
While many people assumed the third installment would be based solely on architecture, Hustwit states that Urbanized was first realized when he toured the country with Helvetica after the release. He hit over 100 cities around the globe, where he experienced first hand the impact that the design and structure of a city has on those who reside in it, and how important it is in the face of a planet inhabited (as of three days ago) 7 billion people. He noticed that no matter where he was, cities face the same challenges that in many instances are rooted in design. "It's the same all over the world." Cities, he says, "are all faced with the five universal factors of housing, getting around, employment, public spaces, and clean water/sanitation." The film goes beyond architecture in that it "puts the buildings in context of the cities, the people, the landscape, the mobility, all of it. It's much more interesting and complex" he remarks.
Complex it is. While it seems like a huge topic to cover in a short 85 minute film, Urbanized doesn't try to tell the whole story of urban design. "It's about ideas and getting them out into public discussion," he states. Perhaps one of the most interesting ideas we discussed about the film, and how it seems to differ most from the previous two films in the series, was the use of "participatory design" and its importance when creating solutions to design problems. While Helvetica and Objectified focused primarily on the professionals behind the designs, Urbanized highlights the importance of including the people the design is for in the process. While the film definitely has its share of urban design professionals, he remarks it's more about "involving the people leads to unexpected solutions that design professionals couldn't develop on their own."
He walked me through an example of participatory design he uses in the film, the township of Khayelitsha right outside of Cape Town, South Africa. The settlement, developed during apartheid, is currently home to around 600,000 people. It's a bedroom community that suffered from an extremely high crime rate, and thought to use design to combat the violence. Through the establishment of the VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading), they spent two years talking to the residents of Khayelitsha about what they wanted for their community and what was important to them before even taking it to the design professionals. Even after that, they spent two additional years talking to over 60,000 of the residents to make sure the designs would fit their needs before anything was constructed. Since the implementation of this integrated planning, the city's murder rate has been cut in half.
Khayelitsha is just one of the many cities featured in the global glance at structure. From Bogotá and Santiago, to New York and Detroit, the film takes us around the world and "frames a global discussion on the future of cities." Perhaps it can help us with the future of our own.
Urbanized screens for one night only in Raleigh this Monday, November 7, at the Rialto @ 7:00, and Gary Hustwit will be in attendace for a Q&A after the screening. Enter by Friday at midnight to win 2 tickets from New Raleigh to see the film, or purchase tickets here to secure your spot.
Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa
All Images Courtesy of Swiss Dots Ltd.