Life Between Buildings
“. . .thoughtful, beautiful, and enlightening...”
“This book will have a lasting infl uence on the future quality of public open spaces. By helping us better understand the larger public life of cities, Life between Buildings can only move us toward more lively and healthy public places. Buy this book, fi nd a comfortable place to sit in a public park or plaza, begin reading, look around. You will be surprised at how you will start to see (and design) the world differently.”
"Thoughtful, beautiful, and enlightening"
"...this is a book that is a great inspiration to me in my work, and I look upon it as one of the classics for all professional or amateur students of architecture and community building, regardless of their age and background, or how short or long their experience may be."
Ralph Erskine, from the foreword to Life Between Buildings
"The partners of pedestrian life he has observed and the recommendations he has made are highly applicable to American cities...A splendid piece of work."
City- Rediscovering the Center
"This book will have a lasting influence on the future quality of public open spaces. By helping us better understand the large public life of cities, Life Between Buildings can move us toward more lively and healthy public places. Buy this book, find a comfortable place to sit in a public park or plaza, begin reading, look around. You will be surprised at how you will start to see (and design) the world differently."
Landscape Architecture Magazine
"This book should mark a milestone for studies of the way people attribute meaning to and use public spaces in many countries. Owning it is a must for environmental design teachers and practitioners."
Chapter 1. Life Between Buildings
-Three Types of Outdoor Activities
-Outdoor Activities and Quality of Outdoor Space
-Outdoor Activities and Architectural Trends
-Life Between Buildings?in Current Social Situations
Chapter 2. Prerequisites for Planning
-Processes and Projects
-Senses, Communication, and Dimensions
-Life Between Buildings?A Process
Chapter 3. To Assemble or Disperse
-To Integrate or Segregate
-To Invite or Repel
-To Open Up or Close In
Chapter 4. Spaces for Walking, Places for Staying
-Spaces for Walking?Places for Staying
-Seeing, Hearing, and Talking
-A Pleasant Place in Every Respect
Walkability is a global movement. Every year walkability professionals come together at the international walking conference, Walk21. In October of this year for the first time the conference was held in Asia, in Hong Kong, where over 800 people from 38 countries gathered to learn from each other, to share their successes and to share their difficulties.
In the walkability field there is perhaps no one more persistent nor better known than Jan Gehl, the Danish urban designer and architect who has been studying walking and advocating for people-focused design of cities for over 50 years. Much has been written about Jan’s theories, methods and successes in cities like Copenhagen, New York and Melbourne, but not much is known about the man himself – how his theories progressed, who influenced him nor of his life more generally. Our new book People Cities: The Life and Legacy of Jan Gehl shares this inside story, combining biography with personal stories of influence. For anyone wanting to be a walkability advocate the book will help you see how Jan has done this through combining academic, personal and political skills with an enormous amount of energy and gentle humour.
Despite the growing recognition of the critical role that walkable urban design plays in terms of creating health, environmental and economic benefits, enabling walkability is not easy. Car-based planning is readily entrenched within our planning systems, particularly in the United States and Australia, and the tools that put car-based transport first, such as traffic impact assessments, are hard to overcome. The recent Walk21 conference highlighted the need for policy change (presented on by Peter), large demonstration projects (such as the major transformation of New York’s Time Square as presented in People Cities) and for small interventions such as the Wray Ave Solar Parklet – a small public space that will provide free solar power currently being converted from 2 motorcycle parking bays (as presented on by Annie and parklet designer Jean-Paul Horrè). These interventions provide hope, and importantly provide a political impact. People flock to them, reinforcing that if you provide human-focused places people like them and will use them.
The conference also highlighted the need for data on how people use public space. Most cities know how many cars are using their streets, both for movement and for staying (parking). But most cities don’t know how many people are walking on their streets or where people are stopping to spend time. To make real change this data needs to be part of the regular planning process. The substantial amount of information on public life that has been collected by Jan clearly demonstrates that a sound knowledge base can enable changes to the planning system and to city design. This data empowers local decision makers and gives them the tools to overcome some of the entrenched modernistic, car-based planning strategies. Studying people breaks planning down to what it should be about–providing for healthy, vibrant and liveable places.
That walkability is now a social and political movement is an important legacy of Jan Gehl and the Walk21 conferences.
Dr. Annie Matan is a researcher and lecturer at Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, interested in creating sustainable, vibrant and people-focused urban places. Her research focus is on active transport, particularly walking and cycling, pedestrian planning and urban design, focusing on how people interact with the built environment and human health outcomes of planning decisions. She has worked for State and Local Government before joining Curtin University in 2011.
Peter Newman is the Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and Director of CUSP. Newman has served on the Board of Infrastructure Australia and a Lead Author for Transport on the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report.