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Urban Design and Planning


Architectural historian Iain Borden is Vice-Dean at the Bartlett School Of Architecture. His work focuses less on architecture with a capital A, than on everyday spaces and buildings, from bus benches and bill boards to food stalls in Japan.

In this talk, Borden discusses urban space as a social product. Applying the theoretical approach of Henri Lefebvre, he explores how different people experience the city, focusing on skateboarders, car drivers and the French film-maker Jacques Tati.

CD-ROM / 2013 / 45 minutes

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Directed by Andreas M. Dalsgaard

Influential Danish architect Jan Gehl argues that we can build cities in a way which takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account.

50% of the world's population lives in urban areas, by 2050 it will be 80%. Cities have become the primary human habitat. According to revolutionary Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl, if we are to make cities sustainable and livable for people we must re-imagine the very foundations of modern urban planning. Rather than examining buildings and urban structures themselves, Gehl and his team meticulously study the in-between spaces of urban life, the places where people meet, interact, live, and behave.

How do the spaces that surround us enhance or disturb our interactions with others? How can we make our streets more accessible by foot or bike? Through his world acclaimed work, Gehl has been leading a revolution in urban planning that has been transforming cities worldwide. From the expanded pedestrian spaces in New York's Union Square, to Copenhagen's famed bike lanes, to the rebuilding of earthquake devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, Gehl's team bring real solutions that promise a more humanistic dimension to cities where people are not displaced by congested streets, skyscrapers, and the car-centric urbanism of the 1960s and '70s.

Stunningly photographed, THE HUMAN SCALE travels around the world to explore how Gehl and other like minded designers, city planners, and urban activists have begun to transform such cities as as New York, Beijing, Christchurch, and London.

DVD / 2012 / (Grades 8-12, College, Adult) / 77 minutes

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Directed by John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson

A poem about a city, its people, and 20,000 crows.
Tokyo is a digital metropolis and wellspring of spectacular pop culture, its commercial crossroads carpeted with people day and night. Above them, watching from perches on buildings and power lines, are more than 20,000 crows. As their numbers soared in recent years, Tokyo fought back: trapping them, destroying nests, and securing trash. The crows adapted; they are among the smartest of animals. The 13 million people of Tokyo now live alongside them in a stalemate.

TOKYO WAKA tells this story, and a larger one as well. A Buddhist priest comments on garbage as the remnants of desire; a gardener considers the relentless persistence of nature amidst urban grit; a homeless woman talks about forging community in her tent village deep in the corner of a city park. TOKYO WAKA gives these smart, opportunistic crows their due, but the film is ultimately an episodic and discursive poem about the life and culture of Tokyo, one of the great cities of the world.

DVD (Japanese with English Subtitles) / 2012 / (Grades 7-9, College, Adult) / 63 minutes

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By Stephen R. Kellert and Bill Finnegan

A design revolution that connects buildings to the natural world, buildings where people feel and perform better.

Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature.

The recent trend in green architecture has decreased the environmental impact of the built environment, but it has accomplished little in the way of reconnecting us to the natural world, the missing piece in the puzzle of sustainable development.

Come on a journey from our evolutionary past and the origins of architecture to the world's most celebrated buildings in a search for the architecture of life. Together, we will encounter buildings that connect people and nature--hospitals where patients heal faster, schools where children's test scores are higher, offices where workers are more productive, and communities where people know more of their neighbors and families thrive.

Featured are communities and buildings from Scandinavia, Germany, France and Britain to the Canadian and American northwest, American southwest, and New England. They include: California Academy of Sciences, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Fallingwater, Viaduc des Arts, Google/YouTube Headquarters, Sahlgrenska Hospital (Psychiatric Department), High Point (Seattle Housing Authority), Johnson Wax Building, Sidwell Friends Middle School, Oxford Museum of Natural History, Village Homes (Davis, CA), and Kroon Hall (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies).

Amongst those interviewed are: Edward O. Wilson, Bill McDonough, Judi Heerwagen, Jason McLennan, Tim Beatley, Bill Browning, Bert Gregory, Kent Bloomer, Claire Cooper Marcus, Michael Taylor, David Orr, Gus Speth, and Richard Louv.

Biophilic Design points the way toward creating healthy and productive habitats for modern humans.

DVD / 2011 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 62 minutes

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Directed by Vera Aronow, Sarah Mondale, Roger Grange

The construction of a huge mall 18 miles north of Manhattan reveals the role of money, power and politics in the age of sprawl.

Twelve years in the making, MEGAMALL documents the origins of the massive Palisades Center mall and its impact on the suburban community of West Nyack, New York, 18 miles north of Manhattan.

The film kicks off when the biggest mall developer in the Northeast comes to the smallest county in New York to build its biggest mall yet on a toxic dump, one mile from the filmmakers' homes. That move sparks a citizen uprising which lasts almost 20 years. It also inspires the filmmakers' quest to understand the dramatic events unfolding right in their backyard.

MEGAMALL turns out to be a local saga of epic proportions. We see big money overwhelm local governments, zoning and planning boards to impose a massive development project on a community, extract milliions, and move on -- leaving the local community to bear the costs of road maintenance, increased crime, and shuttered stores downtown.

Featured throughout the film is provocative commentary from leading urban critics and writers, who give viewers the real story behind the mall-building business and challenge Americans to think about the consequences of our obsession with shopping. They include authors James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere); Roberta Brandes Gratz ("Malling the Northeast" for The New York Times Magazine); and real estate economist Donavan Rypkema.

MEGAMALL is a gripping story of ordinary Americans who confront the forces that are changing the face of our nation. It is designed to give students and communities around the country the tools they need to understand the forces propelling growth. It encourages people to think of themselves as citizens--not consumers--and to take action in their own communities.

DVD / 2010 / (Grades 9-12, Adult) / 81 minutes

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Directed by Andrea Torrice

Two short documentaries highlight the efforts of some of America's first suburbs to reverse their long decline.

America's "first" suburbs, those suburban communities built next to America's urban centers, were once the birthplace of the American Dream. Driven by a desire to escape the smokestacks of the central cities, and a housing shortage following World War II, thousands of suburban homes were rapidly constructed and middle class families flocked to fill them.

Sixty years later, many of these original suburbs are facing a crisis: a dwindling tax base, population and business loss, decaying infrastructure, increased racial tensions and white flight. Lacking policies to help reverse these trends, many towns are looking for strategies for revitalization.

Two new half-hour documentaries use compelling, personal stories to highlight these important issues. A Crack In The Pavement, narrated by Peter Coyote, features two first suburban officials struggling to fix their crumbling infrastructure and argues for regional cooperation. The New Neighbors, narrated by Ruby Dee, tells the inspiring story of two ordinary people, one black and one white, who have successfully made racial integration the centerpiece of revitalizing Pennsauken, NJ.

DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2009 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 53 minutes

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City Hall and grass roots groups in Chicago are working on open space, green buildings and an educated citizenry to create a sustainable city.

Chicago is a dynamic and fascinating city with spectacular architecture and a dramatic setting on the shores of Lake Michigan. The largest metropolis between the coasts, it has the biggest population, the most problems...and the greatest potential.

Edens Lost & Found tells Chicago's story by threading together the stories of a diverse group of its active and committed citizens including volunteers, professionals, students and community leaders -- among them, the city's mayor, Richard M. Daley. During his tenure, Chicago made a powerful commitment to open space with the creation of the 24-acre Millennium Park built atop a parking garage in the heart of downtown. The city has also become a laboratory for green architecture with the award-winning City Hall Roof Garden and Green Roof Initiative.

Whole neighborhoods are getting involved in the effort to create more livable communities. Eden Place is a prime example of grassroots determination to reclaim for themselves pieces of Eden that had been lost to generations of apathy.

And out in the suburbs? An Elgin High School environmental instructor convinced the school board to set aside adjacent land as an outdoor classroom and nature preserve. Here, her students are learning to become leaders in the movement to create sustainable ecosystems.

DVD (Color, Closed Captioned) / 2006 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 57 minutes

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To people driving past the old Holiday Drive-In Theater site in Boulder, Colorado, it might seem like a new neighborhood has sprung out of the ground overnight. But those who worked on the project's development know better. Collectively, hundreds of thousands of decisions and choices were made to create the 330-home neighborhood, where affordability and sustainability are primary goals. It wasn't exactly a simple mission.

In DESIGNING A GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD, director David Wann follows the progress of the Wild Sage Cohousing Community project, where future residents participate in the design of their own neighborhood. The stated architectural goal at the Wild Sage site in Boulder is a "zero emissions" neighborhood in which solar energy, energy efficiency, and changes in behavior eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

The master site developer, The Boulder Housing Partners (BHP), has a vision for creating affordable neighborhoods that are also lively, efficient and pedestrian friendly. More than 400 people with low and middle incomes will live at Holiday, many as first-time homeowners.

DVD (Color) / 2004 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 54 minutes

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William McDonough, Michael Braungart & the Birth of the Sustainable Economy

Architect Bill McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart bring together ecology and human design.

While some environmental observers predict doomsday scenarios in which a rapidly increasing human population is forced to compete for ever scarcer natural resources, Bill McDonough sees a more exciting and hopeful future.

In his vision humanity takes nature itself as our guide reinventing technical enterprises to be as safe and ever-renewing as natural processes.

Can't happen? It's already happening...at Nike, at Ford Motor Company, at Oberlin College, at Herman Miller Furniture, and at DesignTex...and it's part of what architect McDonough and his partner, chemist Michael Braungart, call 'The Next Industrial Revolution.'

Shot in Europe and the United States, the film explores how businesses are transforming themselves to work with nature and enhance profitability.

DVD (Color) / 2001 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 55 minutes

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In his recorded talk, Terry Farrell concentrates on that aspect of his work to do with transportation systems and their connectedness to other parts of the cites they are in, and how this can be improved by their design. He describes work already completed and work as yet incomplete or still on the drawing board at the time of the recording. Farrell has always been fascinated by the problems of transportation, even for his student thesis; and he tells us of later ideas he has promoted: for linking railway stations across the River Thames, for example, so as to provide double access for passengers. He is a great proponent of travel for pleasure and in this category we have the huge symbolic structure he was completing on Hong Kong's 'Peak', reached by a cable-drawn tram much enjoyed by tourists. Also for Hong Kong is the Kowloon railway station which will rise on reclaimed land and will connect to the new airport, the Metro and local lines. But the most integrated piece of transportation design that he has been involved in is for a transport centre for Seoul airport, the arrival and departure point for all passengers by whatever method of transport, and is highly specialised in its relationship with air travel. Terry Farrell received his architecture education at Durham University and the University of Pennsylvania. Before setting up his own practice in London he was in partnership with Nicholas Grimshaw from 1965-1980. He is a master of three-dimensional planning and has built many very large scale buildings in Britain.

CD-ROM / 1996

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The British architect Richard MacCormac trained at Cambridge University in the early 1960s and, after some travel in the USA and practical experience in England, established his own practice in London in 1969. He is now senior partner in MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Wright. Concurrently he has always been involved in architectural education, mainly at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, which has led to a series of important university commissions in England. He has published many articles on urban design, housing and architectural history, and he is a member of Britain's Royal Fine Art Commission.

The largest and most recent urban design scheme that he has undertaken, together with a developer and the architects The Fitzroy Robinson Partnership, is for Spitalfields, an area on the edge of the City of London. There were three contending proposals, but MacCormac's was the one selected.

In his recorded talk he distinguishes between what he calls "foreign" and "local" urban transactions. "Foreign" are those that do not relate to the locality (banking, warehousing, factories, etc.), "local" are those that do (shopping, eating and drinking, housing, etc.). He explains how he has reconciled these public and private interests in his design for Spitalfields.

CD-ROM / 1988 / 26 minutes

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Architect Rob Krier, born and reared in Luxembourg and later Munich, has taken Austrian nationality and, since 1976, practised in Vienna where he is also a Professor and Dean in the Technical University. His book "Stadtraum In Theorie & Praxis" in 1975, analysing urban space systems, brought him instant recognition. His main goal is the establishment of articulated space in cities.

He seeks to reproduce the quality of public life of older cities which he misses in modern cities; and to rediscover the essence, scale, architectural organisation and geometry of the house in relation to itself and to the city. In his talk he adds that he wants to build in such a simple way that the man in the street can understand what he is doing. Work on low-cost housing is, for him, the most fulfilling as it concerns people's everyday life.

Though he uses classical categories in defining urban spaces - squares, courtyards, porticoes, streets - he rejects utterly fashions or isms in architecture. Historical spatial experience is introduced as a new concept - for example, in the Ritterstrasse housing. In a short statement in German at the end of the talk he despairs of the ugliness of modern cities. But he is dedicated to the struggle for truth and beauty and finds solace in his sculpture and beautiful drawings, some of which are shown in these images.

CD-ROM / 1982 / 22 minutes

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The late Sir Denys Lasdun evolved an architectural approach and vocabulary now widely recognised, and which can be seen in his major post-war works. He was awarded Britain's Royal Gold Medal in 1977, and a Knighthood in 1976.

In his talk he explains that he subscribes to a set of ideas relevant to himself, reasonable in quality and which engage with history. These ideas are about an architecture of urban landscape, which is an extension of the city or the landscape and which indeed seek to promote and extend human relationships. His buildings are related to other buildings which may be close in space however far off in time, but they do not make stylistic concessions to the past. The buildings in fact are often a metaphor for landscape and he tries to express this through a visual organisation of 'strata' and towers.

As the architectural historian William Curtis has pointed out in "A Language & A Theme" (RIBA Publications, 1976), this architecture of urban landscape turns its back on the transience and brashness of a merely mechanistic world, and tries to elicit basic responses and to unearth fundamental human meanings.

CD-ROM / 1980 / 26 minutes

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