Design guru Jan Gehl puts people first

16:00, Jan 07 2010

A 35-year blueprint on how central Christchurch should look will be released next month.

Danish urban designer Jan Gehl, who has helped cities in Europe, the United States and Australia become more pedestrian and cycle-friendly, has prepared a report that Mayor Bob Parker believes will help inject new life into the central city at reasonable cost.

The Christchurch City Council paid $314,000 for the report. The money came from its central city work programme, and it spent another $9000 flying Gehl to Christchurch for three nights.

Gehl believes city planning should start with people, followed by public spaces and buildings, instead of the other way around.

The council will release the report after its February meeting and later launch it to the business community and other groups.

Parker and council chief executive Tony Marryatt said yesterday the report had many recommendations.


Council staff would prepare reports on each, with costings and time frames. The priorities would be linked to the three-yearly reviews of the long-term council community plan. The first projects will be included in the 2012 review.

Parker and Marryatt said some of the proposals could take several years to achieve, while others may be realised within months or a few years.

The report promotes open inner-city public spaces, and Parker hinted it "shifts the balance" from cars dominating those areas to cycles, trams and pedestrians getting better access.

He said the report's $314,000 cost was "a bargain" for the city as Gehl was regarded as "the global guru" of urban design.

Gehl's vision was crucial as the city looked at ways of attracting and retaining young skilled people and quality institutions, Parker said.

Councillors were close to confirming an "action plan".


* He is an urban design consultant and professor of urban design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen.

* His research on public spaces began in Copenhagen but has been applied to cities in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

* He is the author of books and papers on urban design and has received many awards for his work, including the 2009 New York City Award for designs to improve the life of pedestrians and cyclists.

The Press