HIGHRISE is back with another look into how we humans live in our built environments. We’ve looked at HIGHRISE before (Out My Window and One Millionth Tower) and this last iteration is just as captivating.
We are becoming a vertical—and digital—species. Billions of us live in highrises, and three billion of us are connected to the Internet. Universe Within takes us into the apartments, hearts, minds and computers of vertical citizens around the world to reveal the digital human condition in the 21st century. Trapped in our highrise units, can we find love, hate, peace, God, community—or a better world—online?
Stories include a mother in Ramallah who tries to stay connected with her family in Gaza; a team of competitive video game players in Seoul who live, work and train together in a highrise compound; a Mumbai teenager who records corrupt government officials in the hopes of saving her building from illegal demolition; as well as young Iraqi refugees in a Toronto suburban highrise, taking part in a “Girls Learning Code” program to learn how to create video games.
One Millionth Tower is a new interactive documentary on the hyper-local level focusing on Kipling Ave. in Toronto. It’s a logical follow up to Out my Window (we’ve looked at it before) and explores how participatory urban design can change our highrise urban landscape.
The highrise re-imagined.
One Millionth Tower re-imagines a universal thread of our global urban fabric — the dilapidated highrise neighbourhood. More than one billion of us live in vertical homes, most of which are falling into disrepair. Highrise residents, together with architects, re-envision their vertical neighbourhood, and animators and web programmers bring their sketches to life in this documentary for the contemporary web browser.
The result of this unique collaboration is a lush visual story unfolding in a 3D virtual environment. Visitors explore how participatory urban design can transform spaces, places and minds.
Out my Window is NFB online documentary that is really great! It provides a 360 degree view of a person’s apartment in an urban centre from around the world. It’s really neat to see how so many people live and how similar and different a lot of things are.
Cizek says in her Director’s Statement: “To be human in this century is — more than ever before — to be urban.” There is a strong social justice message in the piece, in particular, highlighting how the peripheries where many highrises are built are too often ignored by downtown politics. Out My Window, and the larger multi-year Highrise project by the NFB that it is part of, might be one way to bridge realities between suburban and urban and raise awareness, but Cizek also insists that the periphery needs to be physically brought back into the fabric of the city. “In some places it may mean proper access to public transit (Toronto), in other places it might mean other forms of infrastructure like water, roads, electricity (Istanbul). We also need to link these realities culturally, in both directions (Amsterdam [as depicted in Out My Window] is a great example of doing this right).”
In terms of doing it right, the highrises have lessons to teach planners and politicians, if they are listening, in terms of local needs. The informal and illegal economies of the highrises are often harmless, quotidian services like barbers, and fresh vegetable delivery. Cizek says that these local entrepreneurs “…are technically illegal due to zoning and permits, but are vital to the communities: halal meat distributor on the third floor, daycare on the seventh, etc.” In Toronto, the Tower Renewal project aims to address and foster some of this entrepreneurial spirit.
Waterlife follows the epic cascade of the Great Lakes from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean, telling the story of the last huge supply of fresh water on Earth. Filled with fascinating characters and stunning imagery, Waterlife is a cinematic poem about the beauty of water and the dangers of taking it for granted. Narrated by Gord Downie, lead vocalist of The Tragically Hip and Waterkeeper’s Trustee of Lake Ontario. Featuring music by Sam Roberts, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, Robbie Robertson and Brian Eno.
The National Film Board of Canada recently relaunched its website to better show the world quality Canadian films. Here’s a film about urban gardening in Halifax:
In this short film, Halifax gardener Carol Bowlby harvests a mouth-watering crop from her small backyard plot. In considering soil quality, lack of space and a short growing season challenges rather than obstacles, she offers a wealth of practical growing tips for urban gardeners. By heeding Bowlby’s advice, bountiful organic gardens work equally well on apartment balconies, in small or large city lots or in a rural setting.