Jan Gehl has an interesting perspective on human scale design of public spaces as he suggests that human activities can be split into three categories, each with “different demands on the physical environment.” (J, Gehl, 1987)
- Necessary activities – which are compulsory everyday interactions.
- Optimal activities – which people may want to-do “if the time and place make it possible.” (J, Gehl, 1987)
- Resultant activities – in which social activity is reflective of and linked to the quality of the public realm.
As Gehl found that poor quality areas only allow for “strictly necessary activities” to occur. Whereas high quality spaces allowed for “a wide range of optional activities.” (J, Gehl, 1987) “It matters how buildings meet the street at eye-level. It matters that facades are active and that they create a safer and better streetscape. It matters that a diversity of different functions are integrated within the development.” (Kristensen, 2016) The principle of human scale is in response to basic human desires and the emergence of “new decentralised economics.” This “one size fits all” approach towards efficiency has eroded “the special qualities of place and community.” (P, Calthorpe, W, Fulton, 2001).
Towards the end of the post Sharon identified two case studies the second being in China. Concluding that western design principles have the potential to improve current Chinese urban design. Although there are cultural differences of how space is perceived and in recent years explosive development that has seen Chinese cities expand enormously. In china fundamentally space is perceived “as a series of enclosed worlds, and the smaller units repeating the forms of the larger one.” (Nijveldt, 2013)
The creation of traditional districts has become widespread in China, with “local identity becoming an ornament displayed to attract tourists rather than to shelter communities.” This and many other examples shows a shift in Chinese design principles as a local reaction to global changes. It’s interesting to look at how different countries and cultures around the world tackle the same urban issues and adapt western principles in their own way.