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Learning Point 101 People Oriented Development



Image: Malmo, Sweden. David Sim suggests that the world’s cities that have successfully improved over time have done so by understanding the behaviour and needs of people.

WHAT ARE LEARNING POINTS? Learning points share what people have learned from their experience in regeneration - from people working or talking together, or from research into issues and evaluation of what is happening. Learning points can help people and organisations to improve their practice through identifying what works and what doesn’t. The views described in learning points do not mean that the Scottish Centre for Regeneration (SCR) or the Scottish Government necessarily support them. They simply reflect what has been debated and what those involved in the event considered useful learning and lessons from their perspectives. WHAT IS THIS LEARNING POINT ABOUT? This Learning Point captures the key points from the presentation given at the Design Skills Symposium in Stirling on 29 September 2011 by David Sim. David is a Director at Gehl Architects, where his main work is masterplanning and urban design. He is also known as an educator, facilitator and lecturer and has taught at architecture and design schools in many countries.


1. THE CHALLENGE - How to plan a city around pedestrians What kind of a city do you want to live in, one for people or for cars? Assuming we would all say ‘people’, why do we still spend more time studying and measuring the behaviour of cars in cities than studying how people behave? Cities are ‘places where people do stuff’ and we have to design cities around a proper understanding of human beings and how they behave. Our approach to analysing and planning cities for people should be to look at Life, Space and only finally Buildings. The ‘aesthetic’ aspect of design is not the primary consideration in designing cities for people, nor the design of buildings. Instead it was important to understand how people behaved in cities, and how the space between buildings was used. David acknowledged the influence on his thinking of Jan Gehl, who saw cities not from the remote bird’s eye view of the abstract masterplanner but from the street view of the user, and was in turn influenced by the environmental psychology approach of his wife Ingrid.


Whole settlement

Block / Street

David Sim asks ‘Do you know of any City department for pedestrians, cyclists and public life?’ Few cities have statistics and data concerning the people who use the city 3



2. How we can change what we do Lively cities - cities busy with people - are safer, healthier, more sustainable and more economically successful. To make cities lively, we have to design them around people. Although cultures and climates are different all over the world, human beings are the same everywhere – ‘small, slow, sensitive and sociable’. Small – humans while walking sense little beyond a 3m height, so maximum attention in a street has to be focussed in this area. Slow - despite millions of years of evolution, developing technologies and changing

civilisations, what distinguishes human beings still is that they walk – and that they walk at 5 km per hour, Sensitive - when walking humans take in 1000 stimuli per hour (1 every 4 seconds). Sounds, smells and surfaces stimulate human beings as much as sight. A pleasurable place will stimulate these senses, with the visual brain of humans switching off from a dull, featureless building line, and sensing if the signs and structures in the street are speaking primarily to the 50 km per hour being of the car, as opposed to the 5 km per hour pace of the human. Sociable – humans have an in-built need for and interest in other humans. Most social contact, and most visual stimuli from others (facial expressions, etc) come within a distance of 1.3 to 3.5m. We need to plan and design spaces to enable this kind of interaction to occur. Humans also have an innate positive response to green space and to water. Proximity to green space has been proven to reduce stress. An understanding of the human being and detailed research on how people are using a space underpins every project carried out by Gehl Architects. And because humans are the same everywhere and ‘there is only one scale – that of the human being’, this approach can work in all places, and at all scales.

Image (top right): Citites that ignore the human scale can be cold and bleak; (bottom left): Humans are by nature social creatures. An understanding of the human scale can allow more positive social interactions to occur. 4

3. The support for a new approach that already exists Policy, knowledge, practice David gave examples of work by Gehl Architects over the last 40 years. Strøget, Copenhagen. Given ‘pedestrian priority’ in 1962 - Gehl’s first major scheme. People said the Danes don’t walk, shops would close, but 80,000 people now use the space every 24 hours, with the length of time within the day when people used it continually increasing. The network grew from 16 km of pedestrian priority streets in 1962 to 96 km by 1995.

and providing better pedestrian spaces at key transport junctions. Achieving buy-in for such major changes to city space and traffic can only be achieved when the culture changes and people can clearly see the benefits. To start this process, 5th Avenue was closed to cars for 3 Saturdays in August to allow people the feeling of a space for cyclists and pedestrians. The initial scheme of new bike lanes, restricted car lanes, dedicated pedestrian only spaces, with a particular focus on Broadway, was executed at minimum expenditure ($1.3m),

Supporting cycle use in Denmark. ‘Cycling and walking and public space and public transport makes a great city.’ As well as providing dedicated bicycle lanes, taxis, buses and trains in Copenhagen have to be able to carry bicycles. Taxis are now the cyclists’ friends! Despite the high level of cycle use in Denmark, cycling still needs regular cultural boosting through campaigns and promotion. New York City, 2009. Mayor Bloomberg’s realisation that there were more votes in pedestrians than car-drivers in Manhattan helped get this scheme pushed through before he was due for re-election. Having analysed Manhattan’s population (30% children and seniors), its streets, measured their use, and noticed things like 30% of Broadway’s pavements were blocked by scaffolding, Gehl’s plan focused on supporting cyclists, making connections with the water around Manhattan,

Image: The Broadway Boulevard in New York. The Department of Transportation undertook a series of temporary projects (inlcuding pedestrian only spaces) to engage the public in imagining a more people oriented city. 5

largely using paint, as a temporary measure to win support for a more substantial scheme (and to be completed in time for the mayoral election). The speed of the first work was also intended to reduce the timeframe between engaging with people and action on the ground, which in itself changed the momentum behind the desire for change and made the longer term change easier to imagine. This project challenges us to look at how short-term actions and temporary installations can contribute to the change of perception needed to enable more substantive or longer term change.

Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011. Showing the importance of research, Gehl Architects embarked on a huge exercise to engage the citizens of Christchurch in planning the re-building of their city following the earthquake. This was the largest public engagement exercise ever carried out by Gehl, taking place intensively over 3 months, involving lectures given to audiences of 1000, events held in arenas, and the creation of the ‘Share an Idea’ web-site. 106,000 ideas were submitted, most expressing a desire for a Green City. The ideas were collated on a big wall, and gradually distilled into word clouds, then a story-board and plans, charts and diagrams setting out key moves that the city had to take and finally visualisations to indicate the look of the key aims of the plan. As a result of this exercise the city drew up an ambition to change from a city of iconic buildings to an iconic place. The political leadership involved in commissioning Gehl Architects to undertake such an exercise led to the more forward-looking ambition to create a new city rather than re-build an old one.

Image: Storyboarding for ‘a new city’ in Christchurch, New Zealand. Gehl Architects undertook a huge exercise to engage residents in the rebuilding of their city following the earthquake in 2011. 6

Scottish Government Architecture & Place Division This document is published by the Scottish Government. If you would like to find out more about this publication, please contact Geraldine McAteer in the Architecture and Place Division of the Scottish Government. Scottish Government APD. Area 2 J South, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. EH6 6QQ T: 0131 244 0548 E: The views expressed in this Learning Point are not necessarily shared by the Scottish Government.


Scottish Government Architecture & Place Division

This document is published by the Scottish Government. If you would like to find out more about this publication, please contact Geraldine McAteer in the Architecture and Place Division of the Scottish Government on 0131 244 0347.

The views expressed in this Learning Point are not necessarily shared by the Scottish Government.

Image: The redesign of Exhibition Road in London will be the largest shared-space scheme in the world in terms of both numbers of pedestrians and vehicles, and geographical area.


LP David Sim  

People Oriented Development 1 Image: Malmo, Sweden. David Sim suggests that the world’s cities that have successfully improved over time hav...

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