Jan Gehl
Jan Gehl is a Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 and urban design
Urban design
Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and uses of urban public space. It has traditionally been regarded as a disciplinary subset of urban planning, landscape architecture, or architecture and in more recent times has...

 consultant based in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 and whose career has focused on improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.


Gehl received a Masters of Architecture from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1960, and practiced architecture from 1960 to 1966. In 1966 he received a research grant from the institution for "studies of the form and use of public spaces," and has since been a lecturer and professor there, and a Visiting Professor in Canada, the US, New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Norway. He is a founding partner of Gehl Architects – Urban Quality Consultants.

As a "young architect working in the suburbs," Gehl married a psychologist and "had many discussions about why the human side of architecture was not more carefully looked after by the architects, landscape architects, and planners... My wife and I set out to study the borderland between sociology, psychology, architecture, and planning."


Gehl first published his influential Life Between Buildings in Danish in 1971, with the first English translation published in 1987. Gehl advocates a sensible, straightforward approach to improving urban
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

 form: systematically documenting urban spaces, making gradual incremental improvements, then documenting them again.

Gehl's book Public Spaces, Public Life describes how such incremental improvements have transformed Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 from a car-dominated city to a pedestrian
A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running. In some communities, those traveling using roller skates or skateboards are also considered to be pedestrians. In modern times, the term mostly refers to someone walking on a road or footpath, but this was not the case...

-oriented city over 40 years. Copenhagen's Strøget
Strøget is a carfree zone in Copenhagen, Denmark. This popular tourist attraction in the centre of town is the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe....

 carfree zone, the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe, is primarily the result of Gehl's work. In fact, Gehl often uses the phrase "copenhagenize" to describe his vision of how urban centres can embrace bicycle culture
Bicycle culture
Bicycle culture can refer to a mainstream culture that supports the use of bicycles or to a subculture. Although "bike culture" is often used to refer to various forms of associated fashion, it is erroneous to call fashion in and of itself a culture....

 and urban cycling.

Gehl participates in and advises many urban design and public projects around the world:
  • In 2004 he carried out an important study in to the quality of the public realm in London
    London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

    , commissioned by Transport for London
    Transport for London
    Transport for London is the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London in England. Its role is to implement the transport strategy and to manage transport services across London...

     and supported City of Wakefield
    City of Wakefield
    The City of Wakefield is a local government district of West Yorkshire, England, with the status of a city and metropolitan borough. Wakefield is the district's administrative centre. The district includes the "Five Towns" of Normanton, Pontefract, Featherstone, Castleford and Knottingley. Other...

     and the town of Castleford
    Castleford is the largest of the "five towns" district in the metropolitan borough of the City of Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, England. It is near Pontefract, and has a population of 37,525 according to the 2001 Census, but has seen a rise in recent years and is now around 45-50,000. To the north...

     in developing and delivering better public spaces, as part of an initiative known as "The Castleford Project".
  • In 2007-08 he was hired by New York City
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

    's Department of Transportation
    New York City Department of Transportation
    The New York City Department of Transportation is responsible for the management of much of New York City's transportation infrastructure...

     to re-imagine New York City streets by introducing designs to improve life for pedestrians and cyclists. The DOT used Gehl's work to "directly inform" the implementation of their new urban planning and design policies and projects.
  • Gehl has been influential in Australasia as well, where he prepared Public Life studies for the city centres of Melbourne
    Melbourne city centre
    Melbourne City Centre is an area of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. It is not to be confused with the larger local government area of the City of Melbourne...

     (1994 and 2004), Perth
    Perth, Western Australia (suburb)
    Perth is a locality covering the central inner-city area and central business district of the Perth, Western Australia metropolitan region. Perth is split between the City of Perth and the City of Vincent local authorities. Perth was named after Perth, Scotland.-Built environment:The dominant land...

     (1995 and 2009), Adelaide
    Adelaide city centre
    The Adelaide city centre is the innermost locality of Greater Adelaide, known by locals simply as "The City" or "Town". The locality is split into two key geographical distinctions: the city "square mile", bordered by North, East, South and West Terraces; and that part of the Adelaide Parklands...

     (2002) Sydney
    Sydney central business district
    The Sydney central business district is the main commercial centre of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It extends southwards for about 3 kilometres from Sydney Cove, the point of first European settlement. Its north–south axis runs from Circular Quay in the north to Central railway station in...

     (2007), Auckland
    The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

     (2008) and Christchurch
    Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area after Auckland. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of...

    . In 2010 Gehl was hired by the Hobart City Council
    City of Hobart
    The City of Hobart is a Local Government Area of Tasmania, Australia. It is one of three local government areas covering the metropolitan area of the state capital, Hobart.-Government:...

     to prepare a design strategy for the city of Hobart
    Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony,Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney. In 2009, the city had a greater area population of approximately 212,019. A resident of Hobart is known as...

    , Tasmania
    Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...


Awards and distinctions

  • 1993 Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize - for exemplary contributions to Town Planning and Territorial Development, International Union of Architects
    International Union of Architects
    The International Union of Architects is an international non-governmental organization that represents over a million architects in 124 countries. The UIA was founded in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1948. The General Secretariat is located in Paris...

  • 1998 EDRA Award, Environmental Design Research Association
    Environmental Design Research Association
    The Environmental Design Research Association is an international, interdisciplinary organization founded in 1968 by design professionals, social scientists, students, educators, and facility managers...

    , USA
  • 2007 Honorary Academician, The Academy of Urbanism, UK
  • 2008 Landscape Institute Award, Landscape Institute
    Landscape Institute
    The Landscape Institute is a British professional body for landscape architects. Founded in 1929 as the Institute of Landscape Architects, it was granted a Royal Charter in 1997. The Institute aims to promote landscape architecture, and to regulate the profession with a code of conduct that...

    , UK
  • 2009 NYC Award, New York City, USA
  • 2009 Civic Trust Award for Brighton New Road Civic Trust
    Civic Trust
    The Civic Trust of England was a charitable organisation founded in 1957. It ceased operations in 2009 and went into administration due to lack of funds/...

    , UK
  • Honorary Member of American Institute of Architects
    American Institute of Architects
    The American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for architects in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach to support the architecture profession and improve its public image...

  • Design Futures Council
    Design Futures Council
    The Design Futures Council is an interdisciplinary network of design, product, and construction leaders exploring global trends, challenges, and opportunities to advance innovation and shape the future of the industry and environment...

     Senior Fellow

Selected publications

  • Gehl, J (1987) Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space, translated by Jo Koch, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York. (ISBN 978-87-7407-360-4)
  • Gehl, J. and Gemzøe, L. (2000) New City Spaces, The Danish Architectural Press. Copenhagen. (ISBN 978-87-7407-293-5)
  • Gehl, J. and Lars Gemzoe. (2004) Public Spaces, Public Life, Danish Architectural Press. (ISBN 978-87-7407-305-5)
  • Gehl, J. et al. (2006) New City Life, The Danish Architectural Press, Denmark. (ISBN 978-87-7407-365-9)
  • Gehl, J (2010) Cities for People, Island Press. (ISBN 978-1597265737)

See also

  • New pedestrianism
    New pedestrianism
    New Pedestrianism is a more idealistic variation of New Urbanism in urban planning theory, founded in 1999 by Michael E. Arth, an American artist, urban/home/landscape designer, futurist, and author...

  • Public space
    Public space
    A public space is a social space such as a town square that is open and accessible to all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. One of the earliest examples of public spaces are commons. For example, no fees or paid tickets are required for entry, nor are the entrants...

  • New Urbanism
    New urbanism
    New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually continued to reform many aspects of real estate development, urban planning, and municipal land-use...

  • Transit-oriented development
    Transit-oriented development
    A transit-oriented development is a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership...

External links

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