Before reading the book by Jan Gehl, named "life between buildings, I decided to do personal research to get an idea of who he was. I found out in the simplest form that he was an architect that was focus on designing and improving quality of living by focusing city designs around pedestrians and cyclist.
As I start to read the book and take a look at the title of the chapters, I immediately began to think of making of place sessions.
The book chooses to focus not on buildings but as the title suggest life between buildings such as how persons get from place to place, communicate in different spaces around buildings.
He goes on to suggesting the main three outdoor activities are necessary,optional and social. Necessary activities being those that are compulsory such as school, work, then optional activities where there is a choice to be in that area and also social which are based on the presence of others. And these activities are what shape his so called theory and context of life between buildings.
From the reading, it's very plain to see to that contact, opportunity, source of information, experiences, and the way it all takes place around buildings and how their situated should really be taken into consideration when it comes to planning cities, and upon thinking of that, I began to notice that this piece of reading is a type of city planning guide based on his observations and experience. A guide that talks about not only taking into consideration the context of the space available and the buildings, but also the individuals that will inhabit that space. And to take into consideration activities that these individuals will take part in to give the scheme character.
The books details of quality of space and outdoor activities and the deterioration of it over time and makes references to different case studies based of changes in activities before and after improvements are made. I sense that the book tries to blame social problems on the lack of thought that goes into proper planning of these cities in consideration of individuals.
From a strong standpoint, this is a book that should be read by junior architects, designers and planners the same. Because sometimes what happens in this profession in the starting years for designers, is that they may design buildings with a function or strategy but rarely take these strategies into serious consideration such as this book details.
And what makes this book good is that, the author is referencing this reading from his experiences, case studies and observations. But on the other hand, I feel as though it is a book that mainly on the surrounding environment outdoor spaces. The book could have focus a bit on the buildings themselves a bit more.
So in summary, the book talks about issues planners and designers should consider in creating public spaces for individual, and to not only think of the structure and designs of the buildings but of the spaces outside the building as well. Gehl talks about the separation of public and private space from what I can see. It is something to think about when city planning makes public spaces feel private and inhabitable. I agree with it and feel that his views on taking human-centered design approach is more practical.
So as for me when designing, this book will give more to think about before executing and ask questions such as “where are there places for persons to sit, and walk and socialize?” and “Where are logical pathways most convenient?”, “How can I design this building so it does not seem like a fortress but rather integrate with the spaces around it and outside?”
These are questions that this book will have a person asking. And this is what makes it a good book because as designers, and planners, its very keen to keep reading books like, to be insightful of these different views and ideas. This is what I feel will determine a good designer and planner from a bad one. Jan Gehl did a great job with this book.
• Gehl, J., (2011), “Life between buildings: using public space”, Island Press, Washington, D.C;London.