Cities for People.

CITIES FOR PEOPLE. 

In the week 5 lecture, Mirko presented the class with the following quote:

“The building of cities is one of man’s greatest achievements. The form of his city
always has been and always will be a pitiless indicator of the state of his
civilization. This form is determined by the multiplicity of decisions made by the
people who live in it.”- E.N. Bacon, Design of Cities, 1967

I found this statement to be particularly engaging and it highlighted the fact, that cities are first and for most, the habitat of human beings and all other functions are only secondary to this. The layout and urban form of a city space, if not planned, is ultimately determined by the people who occupy and use it, and as a result, it is designed by them, to best fit their needs. 

Mirko then presented a series of “Urban Utopia” design concepts and examples from various time periods and locations around the world. Each one attempted to shape the space into what the designer perceived as the ideal arrangement, some were successful and some were not. From a personal point of view, I believe that many of these plans would have been unsuccessful because they did not correspond enough with the needs and requirements of the people who would be living in the space. The plans represent the designers view of what an ideal urban setting would be, but not necessarily, the urban setting that best relates to the users. I believe that it is critical to design with the users needs in mind, and forming the design around these is significantly easier than attempting to manipulate and force the users to behave in the manner that suits the design. 

In his book, “Cities for People”, established architect and town planner, Jan Gehl highlights the need for people friendly cities and urban environments that are designed with the users in mind. Gehl explores scale, layout and the characteristics of what makes up an effective urban space. Gehl uses a number of his works as examples, and one that i found particularly interesting was his city plan of Toronto, Canada. 

20090604-Gehl1

Cycle paths in Toronto.
Image Sourced from: http://www.blogto.com/city/2009/06/jan_gehl_inspires_toronto/

In Toronto, Gehl explored the need for bicycle paths within the city. He investigated their requirements in terms of location and safety and their relationship with existing roads. His solution was to isolate the bike paths from the roads and divide the two spaces with a central island area, that pedestrians could use, either as an alternative to the sidewalk, or to linger in and utilise the seating options provided. I found this to be very intriguing  as Gehl investigated the needs of the users deeply and as a result, the design solution was very effective. 

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