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How to Study Public Life [Hardcover]

Jan Gehl , Birgitte Svarre

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Book Description

Oct. 15 2013 1610914236 978-1610914239
How do we accommodate a growing urban population in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and inviting? This question is becoming increasingly urgent to answer as we face diminishing fossil-fuel resources and the effects of a changing climate while global cities continue to compete to be the most vibrant centers of culture, knowledge, and finance.

Jan Gehl has been examining this question since the 1960s, when few urban designers or planners were thinking about designing cities for people. But given the unpredictable, complex and ephemeral nature of life in cities, how can we best design public infrastructure—vital to cities for getting from place to place, or staying in place—for human use? Studying city life and understanding the factors that encourage or discourage use is the key to designing inviting public space.

In How to Study Public Life Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre draw from their combined experience of over 50 years to provide a history of public-life study as well as methods and tools necessary to recapture city life as an important planning dimension.

This type of systematic study began in earnest in the 1960s, when several researchers and journalists on different continents criticized urban planning for having forgotten life in the city. City life studies provide knowledge about human behavior in the built environment in an attempt to put it on an equal footing with knowledge about urban elements such as buildings and transport systems. 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. The original goal is still the goal today: to recapture city life as an important planning dimension. Anyone interested in improving city life will find inspiration, tools, and examples in this invaluable guide.

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" serves also as a knowledge map for those interested in understanding the roots of the renaissance of public spaces as a field of attention in urban planning, looking back at authors that influenced the works not only Jan Gehl´s ones, but also of all those addressing a new understanding of the importance of public life in our cities nowadays."

 “For decades, the public space, public life studies developed by Jan Gehl and his team have been a great inspiration for professionals, academics and city planners in all parts of the world. Now their secret tools are available to everyone in How to Study Public Life. It is just a matter now of getting out there and putting them to use.”
(Peter Newman)

“This important book is published at a time when the dynamics of urbanization dictate a better integration of urban activities, which Gehl has long shown how to achieve.” 
(Peter Bosselmann)

 “Applying the principles of public life studies at the City of Melbourne has proven to be an invaluable tool for making our city more livable. How to Study Public Life is an essential tool-oriented book for all those striving to create better cities for people.”
(Rob Adams)

"Gehl and Svarre’s How to Study Public Life is a refreshing manual for how to engage design professionals and the general public to observe, analyze, and assess the nature of their city."

"Thanks to Gehl and Svarre, urban designers have a helpful reference for getting started with the process of getting outside into public spaces to look and learn"

"Danish architect Jan Gehl and coauthor Birgitte Svarre provide a nicely illustrated overview of the the field they call 'public-life studies' in How to Study Public Life."

"This is an excellent primer on how to 'recapture public life' as an important dimension in the design of vibrant, pedestrian-friendly city spaces. Gehl and Svarre... offer fine-grained guidance on the range of behaviors to observe, tools to employ for observing and documenting, and the types of life-enhancing design solutions generated from interpretation of collected data... This is an important book for architecture and design programs at all levels."

"fills a gap in the literature...Gehl is an unassuming but essential guide to this criminally underutilized method of analysis."

About the Author

Jan Gehl is a founding partner of Gehl Architects—Urban Quality Consultants. He is the author of Life Between Buildings and Cities for People. He has received numerous awards for his work and is widely credited with creating and renewing urban spaces in cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York City, London, and many others.

Birgitte Bundesen Svarre holds an MA in modern culture from the University of Copenhagen and a PhD from the School of Architecture in Copenhagen. She is part of Gehl Institute, the division at Gehl Architects that works with research and communication of knowledge at workshops for city planners, politicians and others with interest in life in the cities – as well as suburbs, a topic she has specialized within. She is a guest lecturer at various universities.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent practical new book Nov. 27 2013
By Vicente Del Rio - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent new book by Gehl and his collaborator Svarre. A great account of the evolution of studies of public life and a description of a series of methods to study behavior in public spaces. Goes beyond his couple of previous books which were pretty much the same and did not break any new ground. Too bad the graphic designer who did the cover of this book did not notice he is advertising Stella Artois... or maybe that was his intention.. (top right corner).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the study of urban public life July 18 2014
By Alex Kafka - Published on
This book provides an excellent introduction to simple but highly effective methods of studying public life in cities. Many of the research methods (counting, mapping, tracing) are low-tech, only requiring paper, pen, a watch, and some rigour, thus available to anyone. Most of the book is dedicated to succinctly presented examples of how these methods can be used, from small case studies of streets and squares to large urban areas. While many examples are taken from Gehl's extensive research since the 1960s until today, other classic as well as recent studies have been also included. Readers new to the topic will be amazed to find out how many things can be learned through simple methodical observations about the way the design of public spaces affects peoples' behaviour.

The book is clearly intended as a very easy read, with many highly effective diagrams and photographs, making it accessible to everyone. While focused on observation methods, it also introduces some basic urban design concepts and provides a good guidance to the broader literature in the field. For those that are already familiar with the topic, there won't be many surprises as much of the content is recycled from earlier publications, but it can be still useful as it compiles a broad range of research methods together in a new format. After Gehl's 1987 classic Life Between Buildings, this is probably the most interesting book he published.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Our own Movement in Public Spaces March 26 2014
By DC Book Angel - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jan Gehl and his coauthor offer a vision and explanation for what public spaces can be and why certain kinds of public space appeal and others do not. The grand wide boulevards may look great on paper and from the air, but to the individual pedestrian they are at a scale too large to enjoy. Conversely, failing to adequately segregate cars from humans on foot or bicycle leads to a different kind of obstacle to public gathering and sharing of spaces. While this book should be mandatory for city planners, managers, and transportation directors everywhere, it should also appeal to smart decisionmakers and citizens who care about how civilized civic engagement can be increased through appropriate design.
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star Sept. 3 2014
By Jea Designs - Published on
Not worth the price. This information is basic knowledge for students of design and architecture
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Oct. 8 2014
By María Emilia - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excelent book!

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