Life and Form: An Interview with Jan Gehl

Danish Architect Jan Gehl talks about the intersections of architecture and social science.
August 20, 2015, 12pm PDT | Emily Calhoun
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Island Press

Architect, consultant, author of the groundbreaking book, Cities for People, and subject of the documentary THE HUMAN SCALE, Jan Gehl of Gehl Architects answers questions for Mikki Brammer of Metropolis.

Gehl talks about his early influences, as an observer of Danish society. "Every time we build something, we manipulate the conditions of people’s lives, but most planners don’t know enough about this manipulation."

He discusses the strategy his firm employed as a consultant to the Copenhagen city council. Copenhagen is now recognized as the most walkable city on Earth. "It’s no secret that we have always built cities for people until cars started to invade our lives...Part of that strategy was focusing on having good public spaces that invite people to be outside as much as possible, because it’s important for the safety of the city and social inclusion and democracy."

He focuses on the universalities of design rather than cultural context. "We are homo sapiens and we are made as a walking animal and have the same biological history...Whether we live in Greenland or in a very hot climate somewhere, we adapt and discover, but we all have the same aspirations."

Gehl is passionate about the need for architects to understand the way people live and interact in the built environment. "Because if you just do form, then you are doing sculpture, but if you look after the interaction between life and form, you are doing architecture."

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Published on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 in Metropolis
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