Genre de Vie

Documentaire, 35 min, 2012

Genre de Vie is a documentary film about bicycles, cities and personal awareness. It looks at desired space and our own impact to the process of it. The film documents urban life empowered by the simplicity of the bicycle.

Today we are facing environmental issues more than ever. While architects, urban designers, policymakers and thinkers discuss the future of our cities, more and more people become aware of their own impact and use of space. Genre de Vie uses the bicycle to explore personal awareness and finds out how cycling contributes to the future livability of cities.


In this film, Directors Sven Prince and Jorrit Spoelstra explore how the bicycle is connected to the spirit of times. They offer a visual research about a topic that was on the rise around 2010: mobility and cities.

Genre de Vie interviews different people, such as Danish architect Bjarke Ingles, on how we continuously reshape the ways in which we are connected to the space that surrounds us. The bicycle is a tool for this because it connects you physically with your environment. It makes sure that all your senses are used to capture the moment. In contrast to the car, where you move more or less disconnected through the city.

The film turned out to define itself as a manifest for (sustainable) urban life. It believes to have captured a small amount of the spirit of the famous New Yorker Jane Jacobs and embrace her notion for diversity. The bicycle can be seen as a small step towards this desire. Although it has its own problems (bicycle traffic jams, parking places, danger etc.), and Genre de Vie isn’t an anti-car film, it could easily help us to understand, and to feel part of, our daily environment.

Genre de Vie

The well-known French geographer Vidal de la Blanche (1845 – 1918) introduced the concept of “genre de vie” in the beginning of the twentieth century. Genre de vie is the set of techniques, traditions, social organization, values ​​and standards necessary to acquire an existence in a particular area. The genre de vie of a population was determined by two concepts; habitude and harmony. Habitude covers the whole of transferred habits and customs. Harmony relates to the ecological relationship with the natural environment.

According to Vidal, the social system of a group is close connected to the methods that were developed to cultivate and use the land. This is also why Vidal had a preference for history. The countryside received more attention than the city within Vidal’s research.