Explaining the City in 5 Videos

These films offer fresh insights into urban living.

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I find the emergence of the short, highly accessible video to be one of the great developments in communications and social media over the last decade.  Even as a dedicated wordsmith, I believe photos and, by extension, videos, can sometimes convey much more information and be much more compelling than mere words.  

This is why we created a video channel for sustainable communities at NRDC, now hosting a library of some 136 entries (and growing) - some of them self-produced, most of them curated favorites produced by others - on cities, regions, and neighborhoods. Take a look sometime.

For today, here are five short videos that look at cities in very different ways from most of what we see in the environmental and urbanist blogs I write for. Enjoy.

First up is a segment of the stop-gap paper animation film Metropolis, by Rob Carter. Watch Charlotte transformed from sometime in the late 20th century to the present, into the future, and eventually to a rather startling reclamation by nature:

Here's another fast-moving and entertaining animation that takes us through a wordless but compelling tour of London, highlighting waste systems, transport, food, and more along the way:

We don't think much about a city's underground infrastructure, but this CNN episode about Helsinki suggests that, if we did, we might find a clue or two to additional sustainability. In an earlier post, I wrote that the reporter's effusive style may be to infrastructure what Dick Vitale's is to basketball:

There is something immensely inspiring about folk art. Tyree Guyton's amazing, two-block Heidelberg Project (named for the Detroit street on which it sits) reminds us why. Great soundtrack, too:

Read more about the Heidelberg project here.

Finally, this striking musical and visual meditation on one of the country's great places of urban refuge was shot and edited with an unusual but especially capitaviting technique. Watch it in full screen mode with the sound up:

This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

About the Author

  • Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. More
    Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. He is the author or co-author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), and Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). In 2009, Kaid was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com, and he was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He blogs at NRDC's Switchboard.