Gary Hustwit: Urbanized

I seem to walk into Gary Hustwit’s presentation at exactly the right time just as he is beginning to talk about his latest film Urbanized. When Lynda Relph Knight questions him at the end of the presentation about his varied subject choices for each of his films Helvetica (typeface), Objectified (objects) and now Urbanized (urban spaces), he responds by saying that he makes films about things he is interested in and nobody can deny that! Every project which he discusses from the film seems to fill him with curiosity and awe and hope for the future.

Gary feels that the people who live in cities have just as important a role to play as the professionals who run them and all of the examples he gives from the film are of people taking control of the areas they live in. It just takes one person to start something to improve an area and that can have a huge ripple effect. As John Bird from the Tidy Street Project says people are influenced by what other people are doing.

Read more about the talk

Gary shows projects which begin to turn the idea of ownership on its head. For example in post-industrial Detroit there are community gardens popping up all over the city on public land and Candy Chang of New Orleans is attempting to give a sense of ownership back to the public through projects such as I wish this was… These examples give a great sense of optimism and empowerment that maybe in the future we the people will have more influence on the infrastructure of our neighbourhoods.

Each example Gary shows comes back to one thing – community. These examples must give us hope both for cities and humanity going forward. His closing is a rousing call to action for all designers who he claims have all the tools to help solve urban challenges. He delights in the idea of people setting up “city clubs” where you have to identify a problem in your city, get some friends together and brainstorm a way to fix the problem. On your marks, get set, think … 


Gary Hustwit

Filmmaker (New York)

Gary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker and photographer based in New York. He is the CEO and Creative Director of Scenic, a virtual reality content studio focusing on non-fiction VR. Gary has produced 13 feature documentaries, including the design trilogy of Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. His films have been broadcast on HBO, PBS, BBC, and television outlets in 20 countries, and have been screened in over 300 cities worldwide.

Text: Lynsey Power, Graphic BirdWatching