Turning 80 this month, Jan Gehl has seen his share of urban environments. Known around the world for his commitment to cities for people, the Danish architect, urbanist and professor has long been a proponent for observation- and evidence-based testing and design. Recognizing that, “We know more about the habitat of panda bears and mountain gorillas than we do about cities at eye-level“, Gehl began studying the public realm in his home city of Copenhagen. His sustained research led to a new development plan, A Metropolis for People, adopted by the city in 2009. His work is hardly limited to this Nordic capital however. From New York City to Melbourne to Shanghai, Gehl has had a tremendous impact on our cities. He recently sat down with Fast Company to reflect on what elements are essential for a successful human-scale city. These reflections were distilled as five rules for designing great cities:
- Stop building “architecture for cheap gasoline”.
- Make public life the driver for urban design.
- Design for multi-sensory experiences.
- Make transportation more equitable.
- Ban cars.
For this pre-eminent urbanist, today’s vital challenges are sustainability, sociability and mobility. We’ve come a long way since 1950, with no shortage of credit due to Gehl, but the next generation of urbanists still have a long way to go.