An Camas Mòr - a proposed New Community in the Highlands of Scotland
Related Documents (pdf format):
Genus loci: a sense of place
Achieving sustainability
Gehl methodology

The way Gehl Architects approach studying and planning environments always starts with people; thinking about how people live and work.

Despite all the advances in technology, especially in transport and communications which have drastically changed the way we live, people still function as they have done for thousands of years.  Our bodies look more or less the same as they did thousands of years ago, we are the same size and our senses work in the same way.  We are designed to walk and our senses function correctly at walking speed.  We walk at approximately 4 mph and at this speed our senses perform in a way which allows us to relate to our surroundings and to other people.

We are also social creatures, and study of the behaviour of people demonstrates that people are naturally curious and attracted to places where there are other people; to watch other people, to meet other people, or just to feel part of a social situation.  To make a really good environment for people we must respond to these senses and social needs.  We can design environments that are coherent, well proportioned and dimensioned to people-scale, appropriate for walking, attractive and appealing to peoples’ senses.

Generally we should think of small, slow and low places.  Smaller spaces respond to the physical size of our bodies, lower spaces respond to our horizontal field of vision and slower places respond to our natural walking speed and ability to process sensory information at this speed.

To enable and encourage social interaction, we need to make places safe and attractive, so that people want to spend time there and ensure that the environment is conducive to seeing, hearing and talking.


The Gehl ‘upside-down’ urban design method starts with defining the kind of public life we want to experience in each part of town.  Following this we define the kind of spaces required so that life flourishes.  Only then do we consider the buildings – making sure they support the spaces.

People, life and vitality are the biggest attractions in a community.  We see it in where people choose to sit, where the most populated benches are located, how people choose to sit on pavement cafes facing the people walking by, rather than the buildings behind them.  The biggest quality of a footpath café is simply the social interaction.

Community life is a most important quality, not only when it comes to the discussion of a single street, but also when discussing neighbourhoods and cities as a whole.  Issues on life are related to the urban environment and the quality of the urban environment depends on the life and vitality of a place.

When developing a successful community, whether it is existing or new, life needs to be in focus from the beginning of the design process.

The conventional way of planning by focusing primarily on traffic and buildings needs to be turned upside down, to make people and community users more prominent in the planning process.

GEHL Architects have developed working methods for dealing with planning and urban design where the activities of the people within the communities are considered first.  The quality of the spaces is analysed based on criteria developed from a people perspective and design solutions and recommendations for spaces, landscaping and buildings are based on these.

Gehl Methods
Life, Space, Buildings
Design Team Draft Documents (Protected)