Population Matters

Five facts about the human scale

Five facts about the human scale

Urban life is as exciting as it is dysfunctional—at least from the point of view of Danish architect Jan Gehl, whose research is explored in a startling new doc.

City Mice. Fifty percent of the world’s population currently lives in urban centres; that’s expected to increase to 80 percent over the next 40 years. That number doesn’t scare Jan Gehl, who argues that lively, healthy, safe and sustainable city living is possible if we leave our cars at home. The architect swears he only drives once every three weeks, and never in urban Copenhagen where he lives.

Prince of Denmark. Considered one of the world’s most influential urban designers, Gehl has spent 40 years studying “the borderland between sociology, psychology, architecture and planning.” He and his wife, a psychologist, spent many years in Italy in the 1960s where they observed and documented how and where people congregated and interacted in small-city centres.

The Power of Two (Wheels). Gehl’s first memory of the bicycle is cycling away from Copenhagen as a boy with his father to escape the Nazi occupation. In later years, cars dominated the city where bikes used to rule; he’s credited with transforming Copenhagen—now home to the world’s longest car-free shopping street—back into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly mecca.

On Shaky Ground. Gehl and his associates were invited to develop a plan to rebuild downtown Christchurch, New Zealand following the major earthquake there in 2011. The result, which includes lower-rise buildings, is chronicled in the doc.

The Living Is Easy. “Nothing in the world is more simple and more cheap,” Gehl has said, “than making cities that provide better for people.” He says it’s possible to achieve this goal by building good public space, developing good quality public transportation, creating more excitement for the senses and planting lots of vegetation to keep the air clean and cool. To Gehl, Bogata, Colombia—with its bus lanes, strong bike culture, generous green spaces and streets regularly closed to cars—is an excellent example of smart, people-friendly city living that helps the poor majority get around.

Article taken from www.calgaryherald.com

Read more on this issue: sustainability

Follow us