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.