Jan Gehl Soundbites

Earlier this evening I attended Jan Gehl's talk at the Center for Architecture, coinciding with the launch of his new book Cities for People. Gehl is an excellent public speaker, combining his extensive knowledge and experience on the design of public spaces with a humbleness, good sense of humor, and a willingness to call things as he sees them. These all lead to some great soundbites, a few collected below.

[Jan Gehl before his talk to a packed house at the Center for Architecture.]

"Shit." - Gehl's description of Brasilia at the "people scale,"the third and smallest of the scales urban planners/designers deal with, also including "city scale" and "site plan scale."

"Bird-shit architects." - Creators of plans that are a collection of towers.

"An exhibition of perfume bottles." - Dubai.

"They took out the cars, and next year we were Italians." - In regards to concerns Copenhagen residents had before the city pedestrianized Strøget street in 1962. Gehl further stated that we weren't Italians because Danes didn't have the public spaces.

"We eliminated winter in just forty years." - The ongoing pedestrianization of Copenhagen's city center means the months people spend outdoors has increased from two to ten (twelve with the recent smoking ban) since the 1960s.

"It looks like Kansas City on a bad day." - Describing Melbourne, Austrialia (at the city scale) before Gehl's 1994 study that contributed to a "rebirth of public life in the city." (5.5mb PDF of Gehl's report.)


  1. Ohhh...I love Jan Gehl. These are all priceless quotes/soundbites. Thanks for sharing. Definitely made my morning.

  2. Jan's talk was an absolute delight! My favorite quote: "a good city is like a good party - you stay much longer than you planned."

    - kristin, design trust for public space


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