Jan Gehl in Copenhagen on Perth

We finished our Copenhagen experience on a real high with a meal with legendary urban planner and place-maker Jan Gehl.

Jan Gehl has made it his life’s work to provide convincing evidence for better investment in a quality, people-focused public realm. His wonderful books are worth a read if you care about cities from Public Spaces, Public Life (1996), New City Spaces (2000), New City Life (2006) and, Cities for People (2010) – the latter in which Melbourne, Perth and Fremantle all feature.

Jan Gehl’s approach is literally about creating cities designed for people and with human interaction at their heart. Decades of data collection and close observation of human behaviour lies behind Jan Gehl’s core beliefs of treating pedestrians and cyclists as the priority and human-scale public spaces as the essential ingredient of a good city. He says: “A good city is like a good party. You know it’s working when people stay for much longer than really necessary, because they are enjoying themselves.”

It was great to be remaindered by him how far Fremantle and Perth had come. He told us the story of when he first came to Perth in 1978 and Perth CBD was a ghost town after 5pm with all the restaurants and street life deliberately confined to the Northbridge area. Extraordinarily only 170-odd people lived in the centre of Perth – primarily building caretakers.

He went on to say how his ides were initially met with resistance from the then Perth Council and mayor who said Perth people didn’t like to spend time on sidewalks and public places. Amusingly, Jan replied: “What about Fremantle? People do it there already” (Nunzio had recently kicked off WA’s first outdoor dining trial at Papas on South Tce). The Perth Mayor replied “Fremantle is different. They are not like the rest of us down there”

Thankfully that was not the last time Jan Gehl was to be in Perth. He was invited back to Perth by Prof Peter Newman in 1993 and soon worked with then Premier Carmen Lawrence to create of plan on how to bring life back to the Perth CBD. While it realization was uneven as State Government and Perth councils changed Jan was extremely proud on what Perth CBD had achieved especially in recent years from a focus on reinstating a two lane road network, to more alfresco seating and better public spaces and to a revived cultural centre precinct.

It was good to be reminded of Perth’s recent successes as it is easy to be critical of our often slow and uneven progress towards a more liveable Perth and Freo.

Jan Gehl has certainly given us a solid nudge in the right direction. His wonderful books and his home city of Copenhagen now show us the great city making opportunities that lie ahead.

Thanks Jan and Kim for sharing Copenhagen with us.

PS Finally in an update on my last post Jan said he was just informed this week that Copenhagen now had reached 45% cycling as a way of getting to work and education. Impressive!


About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

One Response to Jan Gehl in Copenhagen on Perth

  1. Aubrey says:

    Western Australia has almost 2000 sets of Traffic Control Lights.
    Numerically, the first 15 have Pedestrian Walk Lights..

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