Principle #1: Human Scale / by Deland Chan

[Deland chan]


First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.
— Jan Gehl

The invention of the automobile has changed the way we move through and relate to cites. An obsession with speed and modernity has made the form of our cities too unwieldy: distances too great to explore by foot at a leisurely pace, to hold an audible conversation with our neighbors, or interact with people we encounter on the street. The current landscape of vast highways, skyscrapers, and areas of privatized consumption has stripped away our sense of humanity and what it means to have a human experience of the city. At its worse, it has disenfranchised an entire generation of planners and architects who believe that the purpose of their profession is to enact and reinforce codes that perpetuate these urban forms.

We need to build and reclaim cities for people to be experienced at a human scale. Great public spaces reinforce the notion of “third places” as separate from spaces of work and the home, which allow people from different backgrounds to socialize and share experiences. In doing so, these places create opportunity for people to have vigorous debate and build mutual understanding through social cohesion.

Too many megacity projects on the glossy pages of real estate brochures have two flaws: first, they are obsessed with the new technological invention of the moment and parade these shiny gadgets without understanding how they complement human needs; and second, these projects forget that cities have a simple mandate: they are made for and by people to live.  Technology alone does not make a human city; it needs to be coupled with an intuitive understanding of place and how people inhabit these spaces.