How do we to bring life to cities? Jérôme Lapierre, our architectural assistant and winner of Prix de Rome, offers his highlights from Jan’s recent winter lectures.


In his recent series of winter lectures for the Copenhagen office, Jan Gehl asked the question “Cities for people – but how?” Questions of this sort have been fascinating him since he met his psychologist wife, which more or less coincided with the thoughts of Jane Jacobs’ book – ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. The 1960’s was a time of drastic changes as Modernist thinking lead to what Jan calls ‘the car invasion’. The result – extreme scale confusion, is visible in these illustrations: People moving at a slow pace (5km/h) mixed with cars wanting to go faster (60 km/h), and architecture caught in the middle. Modernism certainly changed the life between buildings…


While this change was taking place around the world, some streets, for instance in Denmark, started to get pedestrianized, like Strøget in Copenhagen and Houmeden in Randers.

Left: Strøget, Copenhagen 1962. Right: Randers, 1962

Jan realized that the most important scale is the people-scale, where we move at a natural pace of 5 km/h. This is also the scale in which human life unfolds and where all human senses are involved. Copenhagen as a city made many remarkable modifications to invite people to walk and cycle. It is in fact, the first city in the world where data was gathered, life in the city and its people was studied – to create a human scale city.


The Copenhagen Story from 1962-2014


– from traffic focus to a people-oriented place:

  • Phase 1 / 1960-1980: Pedestrian streets
  • Phase 2/ 1980-2000: Café culture
  • Phase 3/ 2000-now: Recreational activities/playgrounds


Copenhagen Today

Since these progressive changes began to appear, the ‘city for cars’ paradigm slowly flipped to a ‘city for people’ in the culture of the city and in people’s minds.

The future looks very promising, since a new Danish architectural policy was published (February 2014), entitled ‘Putting people first’ – A strong gesture to Gehl Architect’s work improving the cities by focusing on the people.
Another sign that these changes have had a positive effect, is the fact that Copenhagen was awarded  ‘most livable city in the world’ several times by the magazine Monocle, most recently in 2014 (watch video below). This proves that people-centric urban planning gets noticed for the positive impact on city culture and vivid urban life.


Hip Cities That Think About How They Work (Cape Town included!)

A post found on Archinect about another  “best cities” list – this one from the New York Times and notably for us here at the Southern tip of Africa, it includes our beloved , photogenic and somewhat dysfunctional Cape Town, this is in stark contrast to many other “livable cities ” indexes such as previously posted  City Rankings: More Harm than Help? and  Liveable v lovable amongst many other postings on these fashionable lists and  my recent posting on Richard Sennet’s views on what makes a city truly “sustainable”  WHY COMPLEXITY IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF CITY LIFE, little of which is being encouraged or actively pursued in any of these cities either, anyway here is the NYTimes’ view:

This survey is not based solely on quality of life, number of trees or the cost of a month’s rent. Instead, we examine some cities that aim to be both smart and well managed, yet have an undeniably hip vibe. Our pick of cities that are, in a phrase, both great and good… — nytimes.com

The NYT selects Auckland, Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Curitiba, Santiago, Shanghai and Vilnius as the hippest cities for young professionals.

Read more:

SLA & Henning Larsen Architects’ Healing Architecture Wins in Herlev, Denmark

From Bustler this new competition winning entry which includes Danish Landscape Architects SLA, whose Stig L. Andersson whose transformation of urban spaces to create the experience of nature rather than it’s imitation I have long admired:

Danish practice Henning Larsen Architects and the consortium consisting of the architecture companies Friis & Moltke and Brunsgaard & Laursen, the engineering companies NNE Pharmaplan and Orbicon Leif Hansen, the consulting company Norconsult and landscape architects SLA have won the competition for the extension of Herlev Hospital, just outside of Copenhagen.

The competition was launched internationally in December 2009, and five consortiums were selected to participate in May 2010. The project proposals were submitted in late October, and, on April 12, the winner was announced. The architecture companies of the other four consortiums included schmidt hammer lassen architectsVilhelm Lauritzen ArchitectsC.F. Møller and Dissing+Weitling.

 Competition-winning design for the Herlev Hospital extension by Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with Friis & Moltke, Brunsgaard & Laursen, NNE Pharmaplan, Orbicon Leif Hansen, Norconsult, and SLA, Image: Henning Larsen Architects

Competition-winning design for the Herlev Hospital extension by Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with Friis & Moltke, Brunsgaard & Laursen, NNE Pharmaplan, Orbicon Leif Hansen, Norconsult, and SLA, Image: Henning Larsen Architects