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City21: Multiple Perspectives on Urban Futures

City21, a new film with multiple episodes, presents perspectives on shaping urban futures, sparking dialogue on planning and design.

Themes include:

The Emergence of Life:
Loren Eiseley on Cosmogenesis

The Sacred Origins of the City:
Arnold Toynbee on the origin of Civilization/City Plans through time

The City as Memory Theater:
Mythic design wisdom transmitted through the generations with David Mayernik

Biospheric Design:
Nature and Architecture, the transformation of the Biosphere2 Project into Eco-Village design with Architect Phil Hawes

The Creative Green City:
The Lighthouse Project in Glasgow, Scotland

Energy Independence:
The White Gold of the North/Renewable Energy in Iceland

Creating Eco-Villages:
The Findhorn Experiment in Scotland

Magical Architecture:
The intentional Eco-Community of Damanhur, in Northern Italy

Utopian Imagination:
Poetry and Architecture/The Open City Project in Ritoque, Chile

Cities and Time:
The Long Now perspective with writer/futurist Stewart Brand

CITY21 Film Review by James E. (Jeb) Brookman, AIA

City21: Multiple Perspectives on Urban Futures provides the viewer with a cross section of ideas and viewpoints about contemporary urban development and is an exhortation to architects, designers and planners to think in large scales of time, space and ideas as the means for current and future urban development. Superficially, the film may be considered only appropriate for a professional design audience but it makes complex ideas about design and urbanism accessible to the layperson.

One of the film’s highlights is the interviews with architect David Mayernick. Mayernick offers an articulate history of the ideological and mythological origins of cities. In one particularly interesting passage, he discusses Giulio Camillo’s designs for memory theater spaces as manifestations of the meaning that buildings and cities have to embody a collective ethos and history. Cities can become powerful symbols of a society’s identity. He illustrates that the urban construct originates in the human imagination by suggesting that future urban development could reside in the idea of the “Timeless City,” a familiar place connected to shared ideas aspirations and experiences. We are reminded that there is always the possibility of a more perfect vision and version of the future.

A major theme of City21 is the idea of sustainability and its role in the 21st century. The film presents various approaches to the sustainability concept with an even handed non-ideological, non-political perspective allowing the viewer to consider what sustainability is and can be. Interviews with Phil Hawes remind the viewer of the technological advances and lessons learned through the Biosphere projects and how discoveries through decades of research can be applied to the creation of “Eco-Villages.” Lori McElroy of the Lighthouse Project compels the viewer to think broadly of sustainability and to recognize the role of history, community, place making and public education as crucial components of any sustainable design solution.

At the end of the film, City21 introduces Stewart Brand’s idea of “The Long Now” which enforces the idea that the life span of good buildings and cities transcend any one human life. The inclusion of this segment provides the viewer with an inspiring perspective and a new way of considering the practice of design. As we collectively move forward into the 21st Century and we negotiate the inevitable frustrating, difficult, inspiring and productive frictions of the urban condition. we are reminded of the crisis of imagination confronting contemporary society. City21 provides a glimpse of future urban possibilities suggesting creative and thoughtful methodologies and ideologies encouraging us to be “incautious optimists” as we negotiate urban problematics. We are asked to do more and to do better.

CITY21 Team

Christopher Zelov
Director

Phil Cousineau
Co-Director

Dr. William Cohen
Academic Advisor

Steve Franco
Cinematography / Editing

Radio Massacre International
Music Score


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