Understanding Cities

Understanding Cities (53:00)
Item# 29016

For the first time in civilization’s history, more people live in cities than outside of them. This program goes around the world to look at cities past and present with a focus on issues of transportation, electricity, light, water, sewage, and trash. The program examines differences between cities that have evolved over time and planned cities, such as Brazil’s capital and utopian experiment, Brasília, and Mexico’s ancient Teotihuacán, the first planned city in Mesoamerica. Cameras explore the construction of a new line in London’s Underground and a new aqueduct in New York City. Portland is presented as a paradigm of modern urban planning. A Discovery Channel Production. (53 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (16)

1. The Lure of the City (02:22)
 Available for Free Preview

By the year 2000, more people lived in cities than outside them. Coyle says cities embody the aspirations of people. People are drawn to cities by commerce, jobs and education.

2. Digging Up the Past to Build the Future (03:04)

The healthiest cities are in a constant state of flux. Workers working on an extension of London's underground tube system uncover an ancient Roman City.

3. London's Tube System (03:08)

Londoners were forced to dig underground to build a system to transport the city's burgeoning population. The tube system was the world's first underground subway. It opened in 1858.

4. Cities Become Electrified (02:50)

The invention of electricity changed the night skies of cities and bolstered the night life. Brightly lit cities can be seen from space.

5. New York City's Water System (03:00)

Ancient Romans were the first to harness water with aqueducts. New York's two water tunnels bring 1.5 billion gallons of water a day to the city. A third tunnel is expected to be completed in 2006.

6. Sewage Treatment and the Thames (04:14)

Raw sewage in the Thames caused London to stink. Chemicals were pumped into the sewage, resulting in a toxic cocktail. Modern day methods have cleaned up the Thames and other city rivers.

7. Organic Cities and Planned Cities (02:34)

"Organic" cities grow without any plan or structure. "Planned" cities have orderly designs and are usually drawn out on a grid. They are often built by individuals with an agenda in mind.

8. Teotihuacan (02:49)

Mexico's Teotihuacan was the first planned urban development in North America, housing up to 200,000 people. In 700 A.D. the city fell, perhaps due to ethnic differences and overpopulation.

9. Overcrowding Leads to Trouble (02:12)

Erosion, deforestation, over-exploitation of natural resources and problems with human integration can cause cities to fall. Overcrowding spreads disease and death.

10. America's Building Boom (02:54)

The industrial revolution introduced steel beams and elevators, creating modern skyscrapers. The Depression and World War II halted the building boom.

11. America Moves to the Suburbs (02:58)

Automobiles, bridges and highways made it possible for urbanites to escape the city. People invested in automobiles and roads instead of mass transit, leading to traffic nightmares.

12. Modern Cities in Decay (04:39)

Big city traffic signals are controlled by computers. Older industrial cities have lost businesses, jobs and wealth to the suburbs, leaving the city in a state of poverty and decay.

13. Portland, Oregon's Success (03:00)

Portland fended off urban decay by tearing down a freeway and building a ligh trail system. The Portland Development Commission created public parks, affordable housing and an urban boundary.

14. The Utopian City (03:27)

H.G. Wells' "Of Things to Come" visualizes a utopian city. Brazil's capital, Brasilia, has sectors instead of streets and no neighborhoods. It is designed around travel by automobile.

15. Brasilia's Plan for Paradise Backfires (04:29)

Brasilia is a city of social segregation. Most city workers cannot afford to live there. It has one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the world. Shanty towns have sprung up in its shadow.

16. People are the City's Life Blood (02:19)

Prof. Rybczynski claims planners can not direct cities; the people make a city what it becomes.

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