Featured Reviews, VOLUME 5

Featured: Cities for People – Jan Gehl

“Built-in Opportunities for
Human Relationships, Health, and Flourishing

A Review of
Cities for People.

Jan Gehl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Cities for People.
Jan Gehl.
Hardback: Island Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In a city like mine, a story which is typical of many US cities has happened: built over the last 200 years, emptied out since the 1960s, and now making a few steps to revitalize the health of what makes cities great; there are hopeful moves of homes rehabbed and occupied, small businesses open, narrow bike stripes painted. And like other cities, we’ve gotten on board with the ‘greening’ of the city – thousands of new trees, some green roofs and rainwater collectors, and small but productive gardens.

But what has yet to catch hold is a compelling urban and human-scaled vision that embraces the inherent benefits of cities – namely their density and diversity – scaled to the dimension, senses, and speed of people to provide the grounds for complex and varied relationships. Instead, many of our most fundamental assumptions are based on the dimension, senses and speed of cars combined with the powerful American myth of the “little cabin in the woods,” as James Kunstler calls it; and as this myth fits uneasily well with ‘greening of the city’ talk, it continues to undermine lively urban places.

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