Planet Earth II: Cities


Sir David Attenborough (Narrator), Hans Zimmer (Composer)
Planet Earth II, Episode 6, Cities, BBC, 2016

The complexity of urban life favours the clever, but to compete with humanity during daylight hours takes more than just intelligence – it takes nerve. One enterprising species of monkey has moved into the city of Jaipur in India – the Rhesus Macaque. But how to get a share of all this juicy fruit …

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City


Matt Tyrnauer, Altimeter Films, 2016

Jacobs understood when cities really work they’re phenomena that come from the bottom up. So a great neighbourhood is what happens when thousands of different actors – that’s the shop keepers, bar owners, the people walking the streets – they come together in an uncoordinated, but meaningful way to create the flavour and personality of the distinct neighbourhood. That not ‘planned’, that’s much more a question of organised complexity.

Angkor Wat’s Hidden Megacity


BBC, 2014

For the first time in 500 years lidar is helping to reveal the lost metropolis of the people who built Angkor Wat … “Some colleagues of mine have described it as, essentially, a scientific revolution” …We are now closer than ever before to an understanding of how the Khmer people came to dominate South East Asia and why their great city ultimately collapsed.

For more from Dr Damien Evans and the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative, click here.

The Human Scale


Andreas Dalsgaard, Final Cut for Real, 2013

I guess there is this very difficult tradition, which comes from the way we teach architecture and planning, the idea that one person can solve everything. And we even have this term ‘The Masterplan’, like ‘I’m going to do The Masterplan’, which will answer all questions. And of course we know it’s impossible, cities are unbelievably complex, so even the idea of a masterplan is really crazy.  All we can do is make a kind of a framework, we came make a very robust framework which allows life to take place. 

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth


Chad Freidrichs, Unicorn Stencil, 2012

Long after the duct settled and the site was cleared this is the Pruitt-Igoe that remained. The mythical Pruitt-Igoe with a fatal flaw, doomed to failure from he start. Little was said about the laws that built and maintained it, the economy that deserted it, the segregation that stripped away opportunity, the radically changing city in which it stood. In the years of Pruitt-Igoe the American city was wrenched apart by devastating forces. They were felt most deeply by a large, but vulnerable housing on the north side of St Louis. It’s a powerful story with a dramatic end and its after shocks are still with us.



Gary Hustwit, Swiss Dots, 2011

Ok, here we are in in part of the Porvenir promenade. This is a 24 kilometre pedestrian and bicycle only street which networks very low income neighbourhoods with the richest areas of the city. I think is it a revolution in the way urban life works. This kind of high quality infrastructure for bicycles increases the social status of cyclists. Before we had bicycle-ways low income people were ashamed of using bicycles, now a high quality, protected bicycle-way shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car. 

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces


William H. Whyte, Project for Public Spaces, 1980

One major finding began to shine through, and I’ll now share it with you. ‘People tend sit where there are places to sit.’ This may not strike you as an intellectual bombshell, but this simple lesson is one that very few cities have ever heeded – they’re tough places to sit in.


This documentary is not available on line at this time of writing, but if you can get hold if it, it is a great watch.