Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: Cities for People

Danish architect Jan Gehl has become something of a living legend in the urban design field. Founding partner of Gehl Architects, he was a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and has taught and lectured throughout the world. His most famous book to date is Life Between Buildings (1987). Cities for People is his latest book and a culmination of everything he knows about designing people friendly streets and cities. While Gehl has mainly worked in Scandinavia and England, he was instrumental in the transformation of Melbourne, Australia into a more pedestrian friendly city and over the past couple of years he completed his highest profile project yet, the pedestrianization of Times Square in New York. Apart from his day job, he is at present a consultant to NYC for all things urbanism. 

In many ways this book is a handbook for how to design people and bicycle friendly cities. Based on years of experience, especially from Copenhagen, Gehl provides numerous examples of good and bad urban typologies from the perspective of pedestrians. If you're looking for a general city design manual, look elsewhere. For many it isn't difficult to identify a street they do or don't like, but Gehl's examples show us why. Quite plainly he brings a lot of common sense to the urban debate. Among all the lecturing and pretentiousness of some architects like Rem Koolhaas, Gehl offers genuine suggestions for fixing the many genuine problems our cities face today. 

The book is divided into several sections each dealing with a different aspect of cities, such as "Senses and Scale" and "Developing cities". A separate review should really be written dependent on the reader's experience with urban design, as those already familiar with the subject can pick up a few good tips but much of it will already be common knowledge. Who should really read this book are those not entirely certain what makes an enjoyable city fit for people rather than cars.

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more book reviews:

Book - Event Cities 4 Concept and Form

The Language of Towns and Cities

Book Review: Spatial Decision Support for Urban and Environmental Planning: A Collection of Case Studies, Edited by Davide Geneletti and Alias Abdullah

Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Science and Public Policy Research

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