This month’s GreenSource Magazine has a great interview with Jan Gehl, an architect and founding partner of Gehl Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. For much of his career, Jan and his team have focused on the development of human-scale strategies to improve cities. Working globally in cities like Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle, New York, and Sao Paulo, the firm’s work integrates itself with what Jan calls “the people scale” to better understand how a city’s inhabitants live, work, and play.
In the interview, Jan says, “While there are a lot of planners and architects looking after the airplane and rooftop scales, the treatment of the people scale has been very distant. It is as if nobody has really addressed making good urban habitats for homo sapiens.” As I travel the United States and increasingly the globe to work with clients and meet with thought leaders, I’m struck by how true this is. Many American cities have pockets of good urban space — walkable, pedestrian-scaled, for varied uses — and yet they are just small pockets in an increasingly bland landscape designed for everything but homo sapiens.
It seems strange to need to suggest that architects, interior designers, and urban designers should focus more on how people actually feel in the spaces they create — regardless of the scale at which they work. And yet, we seem to have lost this important ethos as a profession.