‘Birdshit Architects’ and Other Jan Gehl-isms

A talk given by Jan Gehl, the profanity-loving Danish urban planner, cult figure and rarely recognized inspiration behind the pedestrian plazas and bike lanes popping up throughout the city, is profiled in this week’s Capital New York

The talk gives a fairly good sense of Mr. Gehl’s urban planning philosophies, and, ergo, the philosophies driving Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s revolutionary rethinking of New York City—a rethinking that has earned her the disapproval of new Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith and Borough President Marty Markowitz, among others.

Here are some choice excerpts. The full article is available here

“A good city is like a good party,” he began, “you stay for longer than you plan.”

Referring to the car-centric planning that’s defined cities for decades and is fast waning in popularity:

…”It’s the “Brasilia Syndrome,” he said, referring to the capital of Brazil, which was built from a master plan in the late ‘50s. “It looked fantastic from a airplane,  but at ground level, it was shit.” Gehl said much the same thing about Dubai, where he felt as if he were at an exhibition of perfume bottles.” (He also showed a slide of Atlantic Yards, which drew audible approval.)

Gehl called the authors of these developments “birdshit architects,” because they are “planning from high above and dropping their things down.” Building towers, he said, makes “a collection of towers.” 

“…Walking is life itself,” he said. Gehl believes if a city addresses walking, “everything else will follow.”

‘Birdshit Architects’ and Other Jan Gehl-isms