Documentarian Gary Hustwit Takes on City Design in ‘Urbanized’

“If something doesn’t exist, it just makes me want it more,” says 46-year-old self-taught filmmaker Gary Hustwit. The former music promoter (SST Records) turned book publisher (Incommunicado Press) turned DVD label co-founder (Plexifilm) began producing and releasing music documentaries, like the Wilco hit I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, after finding himself unimpressed with the quality of indie cinema.

In 2007, the California native jumped into the director’s chair and focused his lens on one of his biggest passions: design. He released the critically acclaimed graphic design film Helvetica that year, followed by the industrial design doc Objectified in 2009. Now he’s bringing the trilogy to a close with Urbanized, which premiered to rave reviews in September. By examining specific projects and interviewing prominent architects, developers, and city officials from Santiago to Copenhagen, Hustwit sets out to explain how urban design affects daily life. “Simple things like how you get to work or where your house is and your daily routine are totally dictated by how your city is laid out,” he says. When asked to name his favorite metropolitan area, Hustwit responds as if confronted with an impossible choice, “That’s like asking me what my favorite font is. I don’t have one.”