Today, attempts are being made to create urban atmosphere by increasing density and removing the boundaries between different types of utilisation. It is the counter-movement to the urban planning of the 1960s and 70s, which simply assumed that people commuted to theirhomes in their inner-ring and outer-ring suburbs. Today, people are opposing this development by focussing on the benefits of mixing residential, work, shopping and leisure activities. Many are talking about an inner-city renaissance. This is particularly true of inner-city spaces that are being converted from their previous industrial use. These urban development areas are the manifestation of what we now consider to be the ideal city: Buildings that go right out to the sidewalk, with childrens’ playgrounds in quiet courtyards within. Ground floor spaces with high ceilings for cafés and small shops. Banning motor vehicle traffic and providing access to public transportation within walking distance. People working close to wherethey live and, ideally, being able to stop at the bakery, the cleaners, and the child care facility on the way there. Conservation of individual and natural resources defines the spirit of the times.
Jan Gehl, a Copenhagen-based architect and urban planner, has a keen interest in what happens between the buildings in urban spaces. His planning work predominantly focusses on the non-planned and improvised. Emphasis is placed on spontaneous contacts and movement flows. He wants to plan cities for people and considers the “human scale“ aspect to be crucial. His ideal is the historic mediterranean city geared toward a neighbourly atmosphere, as opposed to the brutally functionalist residential and bedroom community of the modern era.
Slowing the pace of life, making places walkable, building them to a human scale and ensuring lots of green space are the pillars of his philosophy. After successfully making Copenhagen an ideal streetscape for pedestrians and bicycles, his office now provides Consulting services to London, New York and other cities. As a result of his efforts, Times Square is again living up to its name as a place where people spend time, sit or stroll. And that is just one example.