There we have the full spectrum of the problem: some cities are bursting at the seams while others are becoming ghost towns. Who has the answer? Is it Norman Foster with his Masdar eco-city in Abu Dhabi? Is it Rem Koolhaas with his behemoth of a headquarters for Chinese state television in Beijing? To its credit, the film is unequivocal that architects – especially starchitects – are not the solution. What happened when Brad Pitt rallied a group of well-meaning architect friends to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? The city got an odd assortment of houses that look like they were parachuted in from Malibu sitting amid a sea of devastation. Not all that effective.
If there is a new orthodoxy in urban design, it is citizen participation. And Urbanized revels in this so-called “bottom up” approach. It depicts several cases of community engagement, from an energy measurement scheme in Brighton to a new pedestrian area in the South African township of Khayelitsha. It devotes a good chunk of time to the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, whose system of half-houses that residents complete themselves is often cited as a paragon of “participatory design”. The idea is that citizens, not god-like architects and planners, are the solution to the urban question. And Hustwit knows just how effective people power can be: his movie was partly paid for through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.
Looks like fun, hope it comes to Istanbul soon where its more relevant than ever!