INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Monday, November 7, 2011

Urbanized examines the design of cities: Tonight at Raleigh's Rialto

Posted by on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM

  • Beijing
Rialto Theatre
Monday, Nov. 7
7 p.m.

Gary Hustwit’s first film, Helvetica (2007), was a surprisingly engaging documentary that made font fanboys of people who didn’t know they could care about the studied minutia of typeface design. He broadened his gaze to industrial design in 2009’s Objectified, which lacked the tight focus of Helvetica, but compensated with a wealth of seductive shots of the fetishized tokens of consumer desire (fittingly, Apple design chief Jonathan Ive gets plenty of screen time).

The latest entry in what Hustwit is calling his “design trilogy” takes another step back, to look at the largest-scale—and perhaps most important—design application. Urbanized alights in the field of urban design, crisscrossing the globe to compare solutions to living densely.

Hustwit name-checks some of the specialty’s greatest hits and misses, including Robert Moses versus Jane Jacobs in mid-20th century New York; brutalist monuments of inhuman scale in Brasilia; former Bogotá mayor and pavement liberator Enrique Peñalosa; unchecked Phoenix sprawl; and the emptying of Detroit and New Orleans, with scatter-shot approaches to refilling the voids.

Hustwit also spends time with lesser-known subjects, like Chilean low-income housing designer Alejandro Aravena, whose plans combine aesthetic beauty with realistic considerations of what people can afford; innovative improvements in lighting and public spaces in Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, which have reduced crime and given children space to play; and a contentious battle for the heart of Stuttgart, Germany, as the construction of an upscale residential and commercial center surrounding a high-speed rail station proceeds against the wishes of a majority of the citizenry.

With as large a subject as urban planning, Urbanized can only skim the surface, flitting from one city and one morsel of an idea to the next. But it’s a good survey of important concepts and trends in urban planning, and like its predecessors, it is itself such a brilliant example of thoughtful design that it’s a pure pleasure to watch: The fastidiously composed shots look like the work of $100/hr. graphic designers, and it’s assembled with a perfect smoothness that proves that really good design is its own satisfaction.

Urbanized is being self-distributed in a limited release, so Monday’s screening at the Rialto is your best chance to catch the glorious visuals on the big screen. As an added bonus, Hustwit will be on hand for a post-film Q-and-A. Tickets are $15 ($13 for students). The show starts at 7 p.m. Visit

The trailer is here:

Disclosure: The author is a seasonal contract employee of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which is sponsoring this film event along with ISDA Carolina and AIGA Raleigh. He works on the operations side and is not involved in programming.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this post originally stated that the screening is Tuesday night. It has been corrected.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It
Urbanized is a good survey of urban planning, and like Helvetica and Objectified, it is itself such a brilliant example of thoughtful design that it's a pure pleasure to watch.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts

Facebook Activity

Twitter Activity


I credit Mr. Montgomery-Blinn for introducing me to the speculative-short fiction community, not just in NC, but nationwide and internationally. …

by K B Sluss on Bull Spec officially retires as print magazine (Arts)

READER BEWARE!! This series will not only provide the most amazing monthly experience you have ever had with a comic …

by Jaker on The Pull List: Mind MGMT (Arts)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2014 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation