How to study public life by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre
How to study public life by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre pdf
are straightforward. The basic idea is for observers to walk around while taking a good look. Observation is the key, and the means are simple and cheap. Tweaking observations into a system provides interesting information about the interaction of public life and public space.
This book is about how to study the interaction between public life and public space. This type of systematic study began in earnest in the 1960s, when several researchers and journalists on different continents criticized the urban planning of the time for having forgotten life in the city. Transport engineers concentrated on traffic; landscape architects dealt with parks and green areas; architects designed buildings; and urban planners looked at the big picture.
Design and structure got serious attention, but public life and the interaction between life and space was neglected. Was that because it wasn’t needed? Did people really just want housing and cities that worked like machines? Criticism that newly built residential areas lacked vitality did not come only from professionals. The public at large strongly criticized modern, newly built residential areas whose main features were light, air and convenience.
The academic field encompassing public life studies, which is described in this book, tries to provide knowledge about human behavior in the built environment on an equal footing with knowledge about buildings and transport systems, for example. The original goal is the same goal today: to recapture public life as an important planning dimension.
Although the concept of public life may seem banal compared to complex transport systems, reinvigorating it is no simple task. This is true in cities where public life has been squeezed almost into nonexistence, as well as in cities that have an abundance of pedestrian life, but a depressed economy that prevents establishing the basic conditions for a decent walking and biking environment.
It takes political will and leadership to address the public life issue. Public life studies can serve as an important tool for improving urban spaces by qualifying the goal of having more people-friendly cities. Studies can be used as input in the decision-making process, as part of overall planning, or in designing individual projects such as streets, squares or parks.
Life is unpredictable, complex and ephemeral, so how on Earth can anyone plan how life might play out in cities? Well, of course, it is not possible to pre-program the interaction between public life and space in detail, but targeted studies can provide a basic understanding of what works and what does not, and thus suggest qualified solutions.
Like the weather, life is difficult to predict. Nonetheless, meteorologists have developed methods enabling them to predict the weather, and over the years their methods have become so refined that they can make forecasts with greater accuracy and reach. The methods described in this book also deal with foreseeing phenomena in constant flux, but the focus here is how life unfolds in city space. Just as with weather forecasting, this doesn’t mean that anyone can develop a sure-fire method to predict how people will use a particular city space.
Masses of data have been gathered over the years concerning the interaction of life and space in cities, andjust like meteorologists’knowledge about the weather, this data can provide greater understanding of city life and predict how it will presumably unfold in the given framework.
This book describes the methods that have been developed over the past so years to study the interaction between public life and space. They are tools to help us understand how we use public space so that we can make it better and more functional. Observation is the key for most of the studies presented in the book.
It has been necessary to develop, almost from scratch, special tools for looking at people because people’s use of cities has been overlooked, while abstract concepts, large structures, traffic challenges and other amorphous issues have dominated urban planning.
FOREWORD by George Ferguson
1 PUBLIC SPACE. PUBLIC LIFE: AN INTERACTION
2 WHO. WHAT. WHERE?
3 COUNTING. MAPPING. TRACKING ANO OTHER TOOLS
4 PUBUC LIFE STUDIES FROM A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
5 HOW THEY DID IT: RESEARCH NOTES
6 PUBLIC LIFE STUDIES IN PRACTICE
7 PUBLIC LIFE STUDIES AND URBAN POLICY
ILLUSTRATION AND PHOTO CREDITS
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