Descrizione: images


Jan Gehl



Cities for People























Descrizione: Cover

Argomento e tematiche affrontate


           We are all shaped by the territorial environment around us, which translates in the number of opportunities to enjoy the city where we live. This book's main mission is to teach the real lesson of what has been wrong in the design of the human idea of progress. We translate progress in number of cars and travels we do, without realizing what cities would be before cars. Cities need (again) people in the street to exchange and sell, to talk, to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Four great achievements have transformed our relationship with the cities and the countryside:

The lift, which allowed us to build in height and provide more density in urban environments;

The Fridge, which allowed us to stay independent from daily supplies, passing these to be weekly;

The cleaner, releasing alongside the refrigerator, the role of women in the labor market and society;

And finally the great individual achievement of mobility in the XXI century: the car.

        This book is great to draw a diagnosis of what happened in abdicate more and more of the public space at the expense of the car. Powered by cheap energy (so far), society needs to understand that the transition is required towards more sustainable patterns of transport. Mobility is a human right, from the small scale of a motor disabled person, as well as the millions of people who benefited from a network of efficient public transport, competitive and affordable to improve their living conditions.

        By way of conclusion this book gives its readers the various ingredients of a quality revenue public space increasingly necessary in the public sphere of cities. An indispensable book for any current and future public actor.



Main Themes:


·       smart growth;

·        pedestrianization,

·        transportation-oriented development,

·       broader relations between the health of a culture and the form of its civic spaces

·       human behaviour in built spaces

·       “car invasion”



Giudizio Complessivo: 7 (scala 1-10)

Scheda compilata da: Ricardo Manuel Soares Fernandes

Corso di Architettura e Composizione Architettonica 3 a.a.2014/2015


Descrizione: index



Jan Gehl (born 17 September 1936) is a Danish architect and urban design consultant based in Copenhagen and whose career has focused on improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist. He is a founding partner of Gehl Architects. Gehl received a Masters of Architecture from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1960, and practiced architecture from 1960 to 1966. In 1966 he received a research from the institution for "studies of the form and use of public spaces," and has since been a lecturer and professor there, and a Visiting Professor in Canada, the US, New Zealand, Mexico,
 Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Norway.


Jan Gehl



“Live in a city space has a significant impact on how we perceive the space. A lifeless street is like an empty theatre: something must be wrong with the production since there is no audience.”


“Don’t ask what the city can do for your building, but what your building can do for the city."


“What it takes to become a good architect?

To be a good architect you have to love people, because architecture is an applied art and deals with the frameworks for people’s lives”



Capitolo 1– The Human Dimension

1.1 and 1.2 – The human dimension & First we shape the cities – then they shape us

            A human dimension ignored and a planning system post reactive, that accompanying the demand for cars in the public space. The biggest mobility conquest of the 20 century combined with cheap fuel provoked several damages to the public space, leaving them contained, isolated, introverted and dismissive. On the same level of thinking, we witnessed the deterioration of the public spaces, with growing taxes of motorization, obstacles, pollution and noise.  The most direct consequence of all this fractures is the  generation  of absent culture on walking and activeness of pedestrian  cities, absent of traditional functions on the public space, just like, the remain cultural and social functions attached to the social process of a city.

             50 years have pass since the remarkable
writer Jane Jacobs in her book Life and Death of Great American Cities criticized the modern planning process applied in major world cities. Some voices start to make echo in the need for a change on the urban patterns. In a recent time where the respond to the high levels on traffic, was the construction of more accessibilities; in a time where the cars invade the public space, they destroy or modified the sidewalk to give spaces to more parking lots; in a time where immaterial initiatives try to promote the use of bicycle in the urban space without ensure good infrastructure conditions; most of all, in a time where all this initiatives are not made interconnect but in a separate vison.

            “This is the background for the focus on the human dimension of city panning in this book. Cities must urge urban planners and architects to reinforce pedestrianism as an integrated city policy to develop lively, safe, heath cities.”

              In this sense, the invite is once again addressed for the people to inhabit the public spaces, having the planners and other public actors an amazing potential to operationalize walking and cycling cities, strengthen the pedestrian circumstances resulting more sustainable cities with good life conditions in general. However, in the recent pass we assist a tremendous effort by some worldwide cities trying to overcome this problem.

                One powerful argument for investing in this type of strategies concerns with the comparison with other city investments, namely: The healthcare cost (searching answers in a more demanding food policy), and particularly, in the automobile infrastructure cost. A integrated policy that connect hourly prohibition in congestion zones, friendly walkable public spaces and reinforcements in the  cycle infrastructure and patterns are some of the initiatives that cities like San Francisco, London  and most specially Copenhagen and Melbourne are doing.

The author gives a clearly importance to the improvements of the conditions for cyclist in Copenhagen, revelling structural restructuring modifications on the cycle infrastructure for several decades, showing the importance of long term planning, resulting in 37% of dislocations go and came back to work in the city of Copenhagen. Clearly, a direct connection between invitations in the public space and patters of use exist; in the same way that more roads, means more cars.


1.3 – The city as meeting place

The previous diagnostic traced show the damage in the social core of many cities, forgetting that cities in is primarily aspect are the core of all human life. The author strikes on this subject to underline the importance of the human dimension, in is, full diversity. The objective is clear: to strength city life, creating opportunities for more interaction between city dwellers, achievements easily reached by creating, (not exclusively) good physical environment.

After a good and correct allocation of the infrastructure there is still necessary to stress what the author call the: optional activities, namely the usability of the promenades, the visual impacts of the city and the senses of the city. It is literally a “snow ball” in the obvious sense that the improvements on the pedestrian system need to be strategic, segmented and long term planning commitments. All that aims to create more social activities, indispensable for gather information about people and the society around us. Cities should not undersize the importance of the public space, as a forum for exchange of ideas and opinions. The public space is the most democratic ingredient of the city, providing the receipt for foster public participation.



Capitolo 2 – Senses and Scale

Descrizione: 392.1 – Senses and Scale

               On the second chapter of this book the author ask the reader for a broad and more abstract view of the quotidian action, when we walk in and by the city. It explores how the game of distances in managed by your own impressions of the public space, analysing the distances that differentiate how we perceived the other humans, they body language and emotions. Something that the author classified was the social field of vison: “In an urban planning context, where the relationship between the senses, communication and dimensions is an important theme, we speak of a social field of vision. The limit of this field is 100 meters, the point at which we can see people in motion.”




Descrizione: 40                 Analysing also large public spaces like piazzas, stadiums and even theatres Gehl explains how is critical the distance from the action, in the matter of perception of spaces, people and emotions. In other words, explain how the human eye is moulded to absorb the perception of scale and dimensions on the building space: this means, the distinction between movement space: the street; and the experience space: the square.

From the street, we can only experience with difficulty events that take place higher up in the buildings. The higher up, the more difficult it is to see.(…)In fact the connection between street plane and tall buildings is effectively lost after the fifth floor.”





The author analysis the relation between velocity and perception of the elements, this means, the degree of the perceived elements when you walk, cycle, or drive a car. Different perceptions emancipate when you walk, cycle or drive in a 5km architecture: “There is plenty of time to access and respond to the situations”. The completely opposite is to travel in a 60km architecture considering the author an: “impoverished sensory experience: uninteresting and tiring”.




Descrizione: 46

2.2 -  Senses and communication


              In this subtopic, the importance is related with large discrepancies of scale in the public space that provokes many different and confusing impressions: the opposite of short distances that provoke strong impressions.


              Jan Gehl materialize all of this distances in many situations of real life; this means: when you sit on a restaurant, cafe or even when you walk on a small scale city in comparison with large spaces and buildings. In short: “The connection between distance, intensity, closeness and warmth in various contact settings has an interesting parallel in decoding and experience cities and city space.”


Descrizione: 54


2.3 – The shattered scale

           Examples of the disparities between modern planning architecture and the human scale can be found on the traffic car planning: “a parking lot for only 20 or 30 cars fills the same amount of space as a good little city square”. Large scale jumps can be found, as the image bellow show, or worldwide cities like Singapore.

 How the author verifies, there is no surprise that “all the outdoor activities by the river, take place in front of the low billings”.





On the opposite side, the author identifies correct proportionality projects that respect the human scale:


Descrizione: 57

Those examples can be found in Byker housing complex in Newcastle; Boo1 complex in Malmo and new urban area Vauban In Freiburg.








Capitolo 3- The lively, safe, sustainable, and healhy city

 3.1 - The lively city
           To re build the process of a living city is necessary to put in mind that the measures taken are a self- reinforcing process. The best example could be the assumption that articulation good design on spaces combined with the social factor of “people come where people are” are a very good way of addressing this subject, but as we are going to see more ahead, quantity is not everything. The recipe can pass by this characteristics: compact, direct and logical routes, modest space dimension; and a clear hierarchy where decisions have been made about witch spaces are the most important.

More directly, addressing the question of density, the author explains that high density doesn’t create more lively cities, exactly the opposite, as he explains in cities like Manhattan, New York or even in the downtown of Sidney.

            In a study conducted in Danish housing areas, show that buildings with 2 or 2 and a half floors have more street life and other social functions than those with taller buildings. So it is forced to conclude that lift very tall buildings to create very high density and poor public space are not the best practice for the planning system. Old examples like Cerdà city structure in Barcelona, city centres of Paris and Copenhagen or more recent the new urban area on the waterfront of Oslo, Norway are the “ right kind of density”, this means, the balanced combination of density and good city space.



Descrizione: 78

As Jan Gehl is trying to explain, life in the city is a question of numbers and time so there is a strong link between the staying activities in the city that are directly connected to the time that people spend on the street. Seasonal characteristics helps to explains why Strøget, one of the more pedestrian streets of Copenhagen, has foot traffic 35 % slower on the winter. In other terms if the individual user spends more time on the street generates more dynamic.


 But what happens in most parts of the world, is that our modern car-oriented suburbs contain far more people – yes, but traffic moves quickly and few people stay. In a study conducted in 12 Californian residential streets the “staying activities lasted considerably longer and various staying activities accounted for 89% of street life. Only 11% of life on the streets was due to purposeful movement.  The statistics support the connection between lengthy outdoor stays and lively cities.”









Two conclusions emerge from this sub chapter: fast traffic results in lifeless cities and if lively and attractive cities are the goal, there is every reason to look at staying opportunities and attractions.


The edges of the cities, like the author like to call them, are the places “where city meets buildings”. We can describe the edges has opportunities in two extremes: one is the soft edge with shops line up, transparent façades, large windows and clear view of the interior; the other one, the hard edge is characterized by closed ground floors, sterile glass sections, concrete or masonry. In the first, the pedestrian can see and touch, being applied to stay; the other one some little experience to stay, only by necessity.

In fact, the opportunities on the ground level are so much that is difficult to understand why this edges in many new and old cities are treated with such hesitancy.


3.2 The safe city

This sub topic is dedicated to two main themes: traffic safety and crime prevention.

In relation with traffic security the past 50 years are showing that the conditions for pedestrian are deterioration. Pedestrian space is narrow, full of physical obstacles and frequent interruptions. Riding bicycle along the cars is a dangerous activity, and even the bike lanes have a bad design since there is not a reduction on the velocity differentials. The idea, the author argues, is that even in the modern planning traffic about shared space, the pedestrian must have priority in mixed traffic. The balance must be made in prioritize either pedestrians or provide appropriate traffic segregation.


In what concerns the security issues, it is obviously that being able to walk safely in city space is a prerequisite for generate dynamic in the streets of the city. Urban areas with mixed functions provide more activities in and near buildings around the clock. This strategy, about mixing functions with housing works in Copenhagen, because city centre has buildings between five and six floors, so there is a feeling of “eyes on the streets”. The same doesn’t happen in centre Melbourne, has the author explains, because such centre has 10 to 50 floors of distance to the street level.


To conclude we can say that clear structure and organization, sign and directions and good lighting at night are crucial patterns for the relationship between city, sense of locality and security when people walk on the city.




3.3 – The sustainable city


The author explores the hard footprint of emissions linked with transport issues to show how implementing more pedestrian and cycle attitudes could help, in being a signifiable element in reducing pollution. Furthermore the consume of space associated with pedestrian and cycle behaviour is incredible less than the space created for cars, saving this way space and making a positive contribution to reduce carbon emissions.


3.4 - The heathy city


The numerous changes in the pattern of living modes has led, and still leads to a sedentary life behind steering wheel and computer screen. Linked with poor eating habits, especially the obesity epidemic, these cycle tends to repeat itself in moderns societies.

“The price of the loss of exercise as part of a daily pattern of activity is high: a decrease in quality of life, a dramatic rise in health cost and a shorter lifespan.”

               Facing this scenario, the author describes possible causes for the declination of exercise in modern society and at the same time address an invite to internalize this question in the dislocations that people normally have to do. “Why not introduce a broad, carefully conceived policy invitation to people walk and bicycle as much as possible in connection with their daily activities?”




Capitolo 4 – The city at eye level


4.1 – The battle for quality is on the small scale

         The city at eye level is the most important scale for city planning. Good city quality at eye level should be an objective to be accomplished regardless of the planning ideologies or economic status of the city.

4.2 – Good cities for walking


          Without no doubt one of the mark of human live his when we start to walk, our first steps are associated with strong impressions of our surroundings and immediately all life happens on foot. In this chapter is discussed the factors that have a large impact in walking conditions and also the relative stable concept about the distance that the normal person could reach in a circus of 500 meters.


          The inheritance of the last 50 years, in step “with the car invasion, pedestrians were first pushed up along the building façades and then increasingly squeezed together on shrinking sidewalks. Crowded sidewalks are unacceptable and a problem worldwide.”

          The myriad of obstacles such: traffic signs, lamppost, parking meters, bus stops, tree canopies, and others unnecessary sidewalk interruptions are a huge part of walking scenario in cities around the globe. Street patterns, the design of the space, rich detail, and intense experience influence the quality of pedestrian routes and pleasure in walking.

        The role of others details like stairs and steps are also put in the debate, giving the author a strong emphasis on the “psychology” factor about the staircase. Our natural inclination to horizontal movement our saving energy movements are discuss in relation with the configuration on public space. 
Other aspects like pedestrian overpasses and pavements are put in debate, especially in the case of the first to the anti-natural path, insecure and non-pedestrian friendly ( stairs) and in the case of the second, giving the example of cobblestones are visual interesting but unpopular when people utilize wheelchairs, strollers or even women in high heels.

4.3 Good cities for staying


       Good cities for staying have rough façades and good support points. In contrast, cities without edges or with smooth building façades devoid of detail have little to offer in terms of “staying psychology”. The “edge effect”, a key concept in this chapter, is related with the preference for staying at the edges of space is closely tied to our senses and social contact norms. The author addresses some conflicts between architects and their decisions in creating live in the public space: “concern for city life is often totally absent from consideration about the placement of seating and the choose of design and materials for benches.”

4.4 – Good cities for meeting


        Good cities for meeting it is all about communication and noise level. There is a direct correlation between low noise and good communication in public space. Same correlation is found when street furniture is well design to provide a “talkspace”, this means, when this kind of project are setting two benches at an angle with a small table facing them so people can talk as well as use the table.

4.5 – Self. Expression, play and exercise

          The desire of living the public spaces are hide in most common places and people around the city. Children’s play alone or in groups. A great level of creativity flood the cities and for a special group of people, the senior citizens, is more than a necessity to stay in shape. So public spaces, are shaped for all this activities, that most of all, must be flexible. Instead of a policy that highlight special places for special activities, city policy must base on principles of fixed, flexible and fleeting.


4.6 -  Good places, fine scale

“Unless good places and a good human scale are provided, crucial city qualities will be lacking”

Descrizione: 172a The main idea about this small chapter is to denounce how the size of the spaces is a crucial factor for well- being and for the function of the space as a framework for human activities. The author criticize new city areas that are too large and to amorphous, this means, not adjusted with the human scale, or the “5km/h” architecture. Ways to attenuate this heritage, pass by simple urban elements to readjust the missing human scale: small scale must be brought into the large scale literally by parachute, using pergolas, kiosks, landscaping, groups of trees, awnings, plants and furniture to reduce the dimensions of the space.


4.7 -  Good weather at eye level, please

Descrizione: 172b            The climatic question around the world shape the several regions, the geography of the spaces and most of all shape our lives. Understand this differences is crucial to the urban analysis, knowing for example that wind speed along the terrain in further reduced if there are many trees and clustered low buildings.
On the opposite level, wind is a serious problem near tall buildings, because they capture the fast-moving winds. Adopting this criteria, especially in Scandinavian countries can in fact minimize the harsh weather conditions that this countries pass, improving this way conditions for people to stay on the street, to street economic dynamic in cafés and restaurants.


“Naturally, building all over the world should be adapted to local conditions in order to avoid having a negative impact on city environments”


4.8 -  Beautiful cities, good experiences

The question of art and luminosity at the services of cities

To talk about good experiences in a city refers directly to a convincing architecture where proportions, materials, colours and details reinforce and enrich the other qualities of the space. The role of art in the public space is in this book addressed in a matter of valuable quality contribution for communicate beauty and monumentality to the city spaces.


Other urban element that rises strongest in the last years is the role of trees in the public space. Cities like Ney York and Melbourne are making incredible efforts to plant thousands of trees in the public space, increasing therefore the likability of the public spaces. To add, other special urban elements it is the lighting in cities, at night. The safe experience, the highlighting of buildings, the perception of spaces, all makes the city a good experience.

4.9 -  Good cities for bicycle

              Not every good city is good for riding a bike, this is the first message that the author address. Topography conditions and whether conditions are the primal aspect that shapes the bicycle culture in many cities around the globe. From the political point of view, the "sweet talk" was generated thousands of “unconnected stretches of paths ", not promoting the holistic practice in bicycle infrastructure. Something complete different was made, in Copenhagen witch dictates the advantages of other cities in having a strong percentage on the modal split, made by bicycle.

In a planning rectory full of sustainable theory is alarming that practice bicycle conditions are not put in higher priority, since that in many great cities where it would be simple and cheap to upgrade bicycle traffic. Focusing in Copenhagen the author explores this compelling example, pointing the way and chronologic of the actions made.



Capitolo 5- Life, space, biuldings – in that order

Descrizione: 194

5.1 - The Brasília Syndrome


It’s possible to divide the urban analysis of a territory by 3 frameworks: the large scale, with the holistic treatment of the city seen from the aerial perspective; the middle scale, that shows how buildings and city space are organized, and last but not least the small scale, the human landscape measure in the facility of people walking and cycling in the city.


The Brasilia model show how working only with median and large scale could be a totally disaster, with priorities order like this: buildings, space, and life: city life doesn’t have a change to even begin. The diagnosis of human scale in Brasilia is clear: "city spaces are too large and amorphous, streets are too wide, and sidewalks and paths are too long and straight."


5.2 - Life, space, buildings - in that order

The basic assumption in based on this principle: first life, then space, then buildings. When we go back before the beginning of the application of modern planning principles, it is possible to see some clues about the human dimension and they impact on oldest settlements. The same pattern is possible to see in the original paths and market places. These old, organic cities tell the story of urban development, since human dimension to more complex structures.

Descrizione: 201Besides the Brasilia syndrome that negatively influenced a lot of urban projects around the world, it is important to describe action that were counter flow, namely the Skarpnäck, Stockholm and with a special treatment in this book, the Bo01 district build in 2001 in Malmo, Sweden. Quoting the author he describes Bo01 in the following terms: "Bo01 too exemplifies careful work with city space, with focus on the proportions of spatial sequences as well as climate protection, with large buildings sheltering lower buildings". It is also possible to find good examples in Almere, Holland; in Freiburg, Germany; Vancouver, Canada.

Making life in the cities visible is a self-reinforcing process that must start with expectations and prognoses about predictable activity patterns. For new urban areas is a question of seeing and observed the city life that actually exist, and plan to reinforce patters. So it is possible to conclude that city life developments and city life observation are two main case studies for the character of the planning process in the XXI century.



Capitolo 6– Developing Cities


6.1 - Developing cities

In a context of rising population especially in Asia, is expected that at least 75 % of world population live in cities. An urgency theme that rise even more questions about how cities will operate such this conditions.

This predicted scenario reinforce the importance of working with the human dimension of urban planning, especially when concerns to invitations for walking and cycle cities.

The pressure for alternating too many citizens have provoked overpopulation on existing housing areas, traffic system and of course common space and parks, especially in development cities, that doesn’t have a reliably public transport system. Walking and cycling has played an important role in the populations of development countries, however, the rise of motorization urban patters had result in a dramatically decrease of opportunities to soft mobility.

Is notable to understand a direct correlation happening essentially in Asia: "Parallel with signs of economic growth in many cities, particularly in Asia, is a reduction in life quality."

In this new problems concerning city quality the author underlines the crowed sidewalks that haven’t been dismantled or overtaken by parking, the fact that every kind of outdoor activity in negatively impacted by noise, pollution and insecurity.

Descrizione: 221Happily there are in fact good examples, visionary examples from South America, especially the city of Curitiba in Brazil and Bogotá, Colombia. In the case of Curitiba, a city that has grown 1 million inhabitants in 35 years have established mobility solution that emphasises public transport and soft mobility patters. One of those solution was the BRT: Bus Rapid Transport, a cheap and simple way of transporting large numbers of passers quick, comfortably and competitive through the city.


Good spatial orientation combined with an exclusive line track for bus, bus stops that allowed passengers to get off quickly, car free streets and squares are some of the ingredients of the recipe for soft mobility in large cities. Give competitiveness to the public transport face the individual car, is the most effective measure to ensure a democratic view of the public space. A lot of people in rising cities do not have car, and those people, need to have the same opportunities that others, to go to jobs, to enjoy city life, etc.

Descrizione: 223

Descrizione: 223aAnother astounding example can be found in Bogotá, Colombia where its 6 million inhabitants are invited to cross the city in a more competitive and ecological way. The BRT system was put in place too, transporting 1.4 million daily, driving in their own lanes and offer considerably faster transport through the city than a car driver could ever hope to manager on the overfilled car roads. In Bogotá the bicycle infrastructure was target of a special matter. Sidewalks were cleared and renovated, and 330 km of new bicycle paths were built. And they were built to increase mobility conditions to poorest districts in the city!


The planning system also focused in staying activities, constructing 900 new parks and squares, particularly in dense areas without good free space. Articulating vision, in improving mobility opportunities for the poorest and staying activities and quality of live for the residents of dense areas in the city.



6.2 - The human dimension - a universal starting point

In cities around the world, despite they economical develop we can see the patters of disregard of the human dimension. In developed cities, the battle is to change the weight of cars in the modal repartition, in developing cities with explosive development in population and traffic have created monumental problems in city streets. The core of actuation most be centre in people: and people conditions and rights, mobility, usability of spaces are some of those rights. This planning type as several advantages, not only for people but for the municipalities also, is cheap, simple, heathy and sustainable to build cities for people.