21 March 2010

Creating Culture and Inviting the Use of Public Space

A few days ago I watched a video of an excellent presentation given by Kristian S. Villadsen from Gehl Architects called Designing Streets as Public Spaces in Northern Climate Cities. The presentation was part of a conference held at McGill University and put on by the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre.

Gehl Architects is an urban planning and design consultancy firm located in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was founded by Jan Gehl who wrote the classic Life Between Buildings, and whose work has inspired and influenced the redevelopment of Copenhagen towards a more pedestrian and cycling friendly city.

The video I found originally posted on copenhagenize.com, which I have come to learn is a term coined by Jan to describe the Copenhagenization of other cities.

What I found most interesting and inspiring about this presentation is the idea that a thriving pedestrian and cycling culture can be created by good urban design. While we might think that cities like Copenhagen have always been the cycling wonders that they are today, this video shows how it was a conscious effort to reclaim the streets and public spaces from cars and redesign them to promote their use by people. What this all means for Toronto is that a great cycling infrastructure is possible.

The video is about an hour long and well worth the watch.


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