: „A vibrant public life promotes health, makes our cities safer, can lead to more civic engage ment, can create economic opportunity and mobility, builds
social capital, and connects people to their local communities.“ That is a citation from Gehl architects´ guide book for mayors. Your strategies for changing street design are very succesful. Could you specify the key principles of your work?
We always start each project by asking: how can be created as many good qualities spaces and amenities as possible with the project. We engage with the stakeholders - city admin and residents and ask:what is the vision for the area at eyelevel - how
can we maximize the potential of a site and what is the vision for the LIFE. Then we start a dialogue about the public spaces and in the end we ask: How can the building after that be part of creating the vision and secure that the project delivers the Public
Life that we want to achieve.
The method is Simple – LIFE, SPACE, BUILDINGS and it might sound too simple, but when a large project (e.g. a masterplan) invites people to make a vision at eyelevel, the following discussions and the normal starting point is changed. This gives space
for new ideas and new ways of thinking.
: Everybody here in CEE Europe tells me we are not in Copenhagen and the car oriented culture cannot be beaten. You have been working with car oriented US cities so I assume you are well experienced. What are the main obstacles you face when changing the culture of a street in such a city?
It is not a question about the car or not… but it is about fi nding the right balance between traffi c modes. Today many cities are asking the questions about how to organize the streets and it is a fi ght but is very political.
Today, we have more and more politicians that dare to go into this dialogue and talk about green mobility and more pedestrian friendly environments. For politicians it can be dangerous for their carrier, because everybody seems to have the idea that it is our right to drive a car and parking is the most important issue in our cities. BUT if we really want to change the quality of our cities, we have to be able to fi nd a way to create a right balance between walking, biking and vehicle traffic.
The politicians that dare – will have to have a long-term strategy to change things because planning takes time and perseverance.
: How would you characterize a smart city?
I believe a smart city is a city that is robust, dynamic and have focus of local people. A smart city is a city that facilitates and guides the development – engages and pushes the green agenda and that has a long term vision as well as it is able to deal with
the instant demands and changes that is needed.
There are many good technical solutions that is part of smart-city-thinking, but I always aim to make ‘a happy city’ and then we can add ‘big-technical-innovative-expensive-solutions’ afterwards.
If we manage to create a happy-city, then we also invite the residents to be innovative and engage in ‘City-making’ on a local level and then we work together, which I believe is smart.
: What would you recommend to CEE cities mayors besides
reading your guidebook?
Since I do not know the local issues in each city, my answer is generic. But it is important to learn from other cities- best practice cases as well as bad examples of what not to do.
I always invite our clients to cycle in Copenhagen because the learnings from Copenhagen can and have inspired many mayors and city admin already. The city of Copenhagen is, as we speak, re-vising its latest’s projects in order to be a robust and dynamic – city for people. The cities is challenged by ‘water management’
issues, green mobility, citizen participation processes and general health in a fast developing city fabric and I am sure that there are many similarities to learn from.