Professor Dr. Jan Gehl


I have graduated from architecture school in 1960. That was the all-time lowest point in city planning. Only architecture that considers human scale and interaction is successful architecture. First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works. The social changes of our era can help explain the dramatic increase in urban recreation – premium public spaces, with their diversity of functions, multitude of people, fine views and fresh air obviously have something to offer that is in great demand in society today. In a Society becoming steadily more privatized with private homes, cars, computers, offices and shopping centers, the public component of our lives is disappearing. It is more and more important to make the cities inviting, so we can meet our fellow citizens face to face and experience directly through our senses. Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life. Cities should treat its inhabitants better than their cars. Architecture is the interaction between form and life. And architecture is good only if this interaction works. The same is true for cities. It’s not about buildings and streets, it’s about the interaction of life and the physical environment. It is this dimension of architecture and planning which has been pushed out by the modernists. Therefore we need a new planning paradigm: cities have to be liveable, healthy and sustainable.

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Global Movement Leader, Architect, Urban Designer Human Scale Urbanist & New Urbanist

Jan Gehl, Hon. FAIA was born on 17 September 1936, is a Danish architect and urban designer 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. 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 grant 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. Gehl is a practicing Urban Design Consultant and Professor of Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has extensively researched the form and use of public spaces and put his findings to practice in multiple locations throughout the world. His company, Gehl Architects—Urban Quality Consultants, creatively reimagines the multiple ways in which communities use the public realm. For Gehl, design always begins with an analysis of the spaces between buildings. Only after establishing a vision of what kind of public life is desired in a given space, can attention be given to the surrounding buildings and the ways the spaces can productively interact. Gehl participates in and advises many urban design and public projects around the world. In 2004, he carried out an important study in to the quality of the public realm in London, and supported City of Wakefield and the town of Castleford in developing and delivering better public spaces, as part of an initiative known as “The Castleford Project”.

In 2007, he was commissioned by the New York City to re-imagine streets by introducing designs to improve life for pedestrians and cyclists. Gehl has been influential in Australia and New Zealand as well, where he prepared public life studies for the city centres of Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch, and Hobart. In 1992, Gehl received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. In 1993, he received the Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize – for exemplary contributions to town planning and territorial development from the International Union of Architects. He was awarded the E.D.R.A. Award (1998) by Environmental Design Research Association, the Honorary Academician (2007) by Academy of Urbanism, the L.I. Award (2008) by Landscape Institute, the NYC Award (2009) by New York City, and the Prince Eugen Medal (2011) for outstanding artistic achievement in architecture, Denmark. He is also on the editorial board of Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Urban Design International, and Town Planning & Architecture. It is this trenchant but charming critique which is somewhat of a trademark for Jan Gehl. The 78-year-old from Copenhagen has dedicated his professional life to the human aspect in city planning. Thanks to his work at the University of Copenhagen for decades, his hometown now is one of the most liveable cities in the world. With his company Gehl Architects he helps cities around the globe to build cities for people.