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Pedestrianisation
in Copenhagen
Part of our Low Carbon Copenhagen project ... project index >
introduction  •  how + why pedestrianisation started  •  Jan Gehl + Lars Gemzøe  •  transport integration  •  it is successful?  •  walking the city •  sources
key facts  •  urban planning timeline  •  pedestrianisation timeline  •  Denmark timeline
Jan Gehl + Lars Gemzøe
Danish architects and urban consultants Jan Gehl and Lars Gemze have been highly influential in the modern urban planning of Copenhagen — specifically the pedestrianisation and the use of public spaces — through the detailed studies they have led at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Copenhagen, and their continuing consultancy work for the city.
Gehl has been instrumental in turning Copenhagen from traffic clogged to café cultured. He also advises on urban planning all over the world and his expertise has helped city authorities in Adelaide, Amman, Barcelona, Bogotá, Changsha, Cordoba, Curitiba, Edinburgh, Freiburg, Melbourne, Lyon, Oslo, Portland and Strasbourg, among others.
With his colleague Gemzøe, Gehl has helped gradually remodel Copenhagen into the kind of place where its citizens want to live as well as work. Their philosophy is illustrated by this comment about the city ...
"By the 60's American values had begun to catch on — separate isolated homes and everyone driving. The city was suffering so how could we reverse these patterns? We decided to make the public realm so attractive it would drag people back into the streets, whilst making it simultaneously difficult to go there by car." Jan Gehl, 1992
Pedesrianisation in Copenhagen
Gehl and Gemzøe describe ...
The four stages of a city's life
First, there is the traditional city, which is both meeting and market place where these on-foot activities can co-exist with traffic. Examples would be Venice or cities in developing countries where cars are not prevalent.
Second is the invaded or inundated city, where car dominance begins to take over public space. London is such a city.
Third is the abandoned city, where the public realm is abandoned and the city becomes car dependant. People stop walking and cycling and take to their cars. There are many cities like this in America places where there are no pavements and people commute between malls.
Fourth, and only with intervention, there is the reconquered city where car domination can be replaced by public spaces.
Developing a methodology
In an interview with Paul Makovsky in 2002, Gehl describes how he first became involved in Copenhagen's pedestrianisation. When the first of the city's pedestrianised zones opened, he was two years out of university and practicising architecture. He became interested in the human side of architectural design and in 1971 published a book about public space called Life Between Buildings (Danish Architectural Press).
That same year he took up a research position at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, and Copenhagen's pedestrianised Strøget became his laboratory. Further studies culminated in the publication with Gemzøe of Public Spaces - Public Life (see sources). The studies and data generated by the university gave the city authorities confidence in implementing the pedestrianisation schemes.
The methodology developed for Copenhagen was to study the existing situation and evaluate it, then improve it, check the results and start the process again. Gehl believes that the city's success with pedestrianisation is linked to this gradual approach — a progression of small changes are easier to accept (and pay for) than a transformation all at once. The city has never had a 'master plan' for pedestrianisation but does have the political will to implement change.
Gehl and Gemze demonstrated that the more easily accessible areas are the most used. This holds true for all kinds of traffic, though they concentrated on pedestrians and bicycles.
City streets that grew up as a consequence of necessary activities — trade, accommodation, manufacturing, business — now have more optional uses. In Copenhagen, the aim is to provide citizens with a variety of retail, dining, cultural, recreation and leisure choices.
In recent years, the city has been focusing on transforming its suburban squares for pedestrians and trying out new approaches in the city centre, such as shared streets that allow pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to all use the carriageway. Gehl and Gemzøe, and Gehl Architects, continue to contribute to the ongoing process ..... next >
Top links
PPS — Project for Public Spaces — Jan Gehl   www.pps.org/jgehl/
Profile of Jan Gehl by the non-profit PPS organisation of New York
Metropolis — Pedestrian Cities   www.metropolismag.com
Paul Makovsky interviews Jan Gehl for Metropolis magazine (2002)
Gehl Architects — Urban Quality Consultants   www.gehlarchitects.com
Gehl and Gemzøe are based at Gehl Architects
YouTube   www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMgEsUbMHSQ
Jan Gehl talking about Copenhagen pedestrianisation
introduction  •  how + why pedestrianisation started  •  Jan Gehl + Lars Gemzøe  •  transport integration  •  it is successful?  •  walking the city •  sources
key facts  •  urban planning timeline  •  pedestrianisation timeline  •  Denmark timeline
image  courtesy Tim Beatley
sources and references  see sources
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Jan Gehl
Professor Gehl is a founding partner of Gehl Architects, Copenhagen, and recently retired chair of Urban Design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture. His work on the way people use public spaces in cities continues to be highly influential all over the world, evidenced by an impressive list of international awards, decorations, honorary fellowships and an honorary doctorate. Visiting professorships include universities around the globe, from Costa Rica to Australia. He is widely published and an effective communicator.
2003-06  Chair of Urban Design, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
2000  Founding Partner Gehl Architects
1998  Director of the new Center for Public Space Research, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
1971 onwards  Lecturer (later Senior Lecturer), Urban Design, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
1966  Research position, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
1960-66  Practiced as an architect
1960  B + MA (Arch), Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
born  17th September 1936
nationality  Danish
lives in  Copenhagen
see (incl. list of publications)  www.gehlarchitects.com
interview (2002)  www.metropolismag.com
Lars Gemzøe
Architect and Senior Consultant at Gehl Architects, Copenhagen. Gemzøe is a recognised international authority on the quality of life in public spaces. He has lectured at universities around the world, and acts as consultant to local authorities and private developers in a number of countries. He is Gehl Architects' representative to the Cycling Embassy of Denmark.
2009-  Toolbox for Public Life Studies, Copenhagen
2009-  Pedestrian strategy for Copenhagen
2008  Work in San Francisco, Guatemala, Copenhagen
2007  Work in Jordan, Dublin, Birmingham, Cardiff
2004  Wakefield Strategy Plan, UK
2003  The Blue Plan, Copenhagen harbour
1989-06  Senior Lecturer, Urban Design, Center for Public Space Research, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
1983-01  Senior Lecturer, DIS, Denmark's International Study Program
1979-89  Lecturer, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture
1972  MA (Arch), Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
born  1945
nationality  Danish
lives in  Copenhagen