My first book Life Between Buildings was published 41 years ago. Yet today in 2012 the book, and people oriented planning principles embodied in it continues to be much in demand. I’m delighted and humbled by the staying power of these planning principles which is most recently exemplified by the great international interest in my latest book Cities for People. Already by 2012 this book will be published in 10 languages and a number of new versions are lined up for 2013.
Yet despite this praise and continued interest in the people oriented planning principles, places, districts and entire cities continue to be developed without any reference to principles along these lines. This is not an issue of negligence, but of neglect. For over the past 50 years, none of those entrusted with building cities – neither architects, planners nor engineers – have been trained to focus on looking after the needs of people. The growing interest in my work from numerous professions and disciplines attests to the fact that this is thankfully changing. There appears to be a genuine and powerful trend of politicians, technocrats and citizens alike beginning to demand that Cities become more liveable, safer, healthier, and indeed more sustainable.
It is a great joy for me to see these timeless principles for caring for the life in the cities presented in a new format (animated film) and in a new context joining several Scandinavian colleagues at the New Nordic Architecture Exhibit at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, North of Copenhagen. The principles illustrated at Louisiana are very much the same today as they were many years ago. People are still people.
It is equally a joy for me to see Gehl Architects continue to evolve these guiding core values and principles to many different types of projects and scales of intervention. Working with partners around the world, this young, energetic and stubbornly optimistic team work to tailor and contextualize design, planning and research that builds upon the foundation established during the many years of research and dialogues. This team is actively engaging in dialogue around the world with colleagues, clients and collaborators to add layers of meaning and new possibilities for application of these core values. In doing so, Gehl Architects, as the other design practices featured in the Loisianna exhibit, continue to build upon a wider Nordic tradition for architecture and design that is rooted in a fundamental care and appreciation for the human being.
As we progress through the 21st century, I’m confident that the continued dedication of a new generation of city makers – from economists to social scientists to architects to business owners and politicians – that care for the city from a human centered perspective of the Nordic tradition will ensure that the cities of tomorrow will be much better for people than the cities of today.