For decades, renowned architect Jan Gehl has been at the center of creating vibrant, human- scale public spaces in global cities including Copenhagen, New York, and Melbourne. In his newest venture, together with public-space expert Birgitte Svarre, Gehl explores the field of study that helps us better understand the life that takes place in public spaces and the components that can revitalize neighborhoods.
At the heart of the best urban design projects is a deep understanding of how people live—on that block, in that neighborhood, in that city, in that region. But life is unpredictable, complex, and ephemeral, so how do you learn to understand it? In Gehl and Svarre’s book, How to Study Public Life, they offer the first comprehensive history and guide to the study of public life, a field pioneered 50 years ago by, among others, Jan Gehl.
In the book, Gehl and Svarre detail the ideas and techniques that have defined the field, elucidating topics from how to time walking speeds to why Jane Jacobs is so important. They address the opportunities and challenges offered by technology to the study of public life, bringing the field from its historical origins to its developing future.
The final chapters offer a selection of case studies from cities around the world and explore their impact on the ground. From the rise of carless space in Copenhagen to the transformation of New York’s Time Square into a pedestrian zone, Gehl and Svarre outline the ways urban design interacts with and enhances public life. Lavishly illustrated in four-color, the book encapsulates the soul of city life.
How to Study Public Life offers a unique combination: the expertise of an architect who has shaped the design field and the real world understanding of one who executes these studies on the ground.
Jan Gehl is a founding partner of Gehl Architects—Urban Quality Consultants. He is the author of Life Between Buildings and Cities for People. He has received numerous awards for his work and is widely credited with creating and renewing urban spaces in cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York City, London, and many others. Birgitte Bundesen Svarre is part of Gehl Institute, the division at Gehl Architects that works with research, development, and communication. She facilitates workshops for city planners, politicians and others with interest in life in the cities—as well as suburbs, a topic she has specialized within and is a guest lecturer at various universities.