Review: The Human Scale
A look at the startling urban expansion the world has undergone, and where the planet is headed. (Here’s a hint: it’s not good). This Danish documentary travels the world to see what designs have worked, what haven’t, and what we are to do next.
Architects, world citizens, city dwellers, and one particularly cynical cab driver.
Divided into five chapters, each of which declare its own instructive conceit, The Human Scale is both a warning signal and a guiding light. It’s balance between staggeringly ominous and cautiously optimistic is welcome, especially when so many documentaries are the former to the extreme.
Directed by Andreas M. Dalsgaard follows the theories of Danish architect Jan Gehl. It’s an informative and carefully-crafted presentation, arrogant and sure as it decries the failures of some world cities while praising others. The film is at its best when it points out past successes and failures of urban, making the point that by building roads, we welcome cars – and more roads and highways only lead to more cars.
So while that may be a rather depressing point, and watching automobiles sit in traffic, polluting the air, is not the most comforting visual, the opposite is presented as true as well. If you build more public space, people will use it. Copenhagen and New York City are lauded in some cases (the former much more), as they along with other progressive metropolises devised clever ways to better utilize space in recreational means and not to facilitate car traffic.
It all starts to get into murkier territory when discusses why people live they way to they do now. The Human Scale questions the desire of some city dwellers to live alone or with a sole roommate, mentioning that past societies were more communal. The argument for and against city life isn’t as convincingly related to urban design and overpopulation. While part of the case made is for human interaction to enhance the quality of city living, it’s a weak case to say that requires living with more people.
While the film does play out like you’re sitting and listening in a university auditorium, it’s beautifully shot and feels of a global tour. Especially insightful though perhaps not groundbreaking, The Human Scale commends and critiques current developments, while advising the future construction of Christchurch, New Zealand, a city ravaged by an earthquake in 2011.
Should You See It?
Informative to be sure, The Human Scale as a documentary doesn’t seem that different from what you can read and discover on your earn. If you’re planning on relocating and you can go anywhere in the world, this might help you decide.