People and Cities: An Intertwined Relationship of Creating a Human-Centric Urban Environment

170327_The Human Scale_Balancing

“The Human Scale” documents Danish architect Jan Gehl’s approach to create a good urban habitat for healthy human beings. Through years of observing people’s interaction with their living environment, Jan proposed and tested a set of human-centric guidelines in realizing an urban environment that is more suitable for human nature than the widely adopted automobile-focused planning and isolated space design typically associated with urban living.

“… even today we know much more about a good habitat for mountain gorillas or Siberian tigers than we know about a good urban habitat for homo sapiens.”

— Jan Gehl, “The Human Scale”

Considering, nowadays, the majority of the population are living in cities, if our fabricated environment is training us to contradict our primitive behaviour, why do we continue to live in these unfit environment through Jan’s eyes? Shouldn’t we already migrate to an environment better fitting our natural demand?

The city lifestyle can’t be that unsuitable according to Jan’s perspective, can it? After all, aren’t we humans capable of making appropriate adjustments to maintain our biological needs?

Interestingly, human nature is the foundation of both sides of the argument. Jan argues that the current built environment is designed to steer away from human’s social nature whereas the latter view, shared by many urban dwellers, embraces adaptability to the current city definition – densified building blocks surrounded by busy streets.

From a historical perspective, civilization has evolved itself from hunter-gatherers, through agricultural and industrial revolution, to the current post-industrial culture. In each evolutionary stage, social interaction is undeniably a stable in constructing a healthy society; however, it is also undeniable that our ancestors adapted to significant lifestyle changes through each evolution stage.

Therefore, to design a people’s urban environment, it is a balancing act between urban growth and human needs. People build cities; yet, cities molds people. This balance scale is the key to designing a good human habitat.


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