Architect calls for department of public life to improve London

Opportunity is there to improve life in London though better design, claims leading architect.

A leading architect famous for helping transform Copenhagen into a pedestrian-led city has called for the creation of a department of public life in London. In his lecture, hosted by New London Architecture, Jan Gehl suggested that such a department could study how the city works to help improve its public spaces and transport system. He said: “We can fix London very easily. We can make it a very fine city for people, and a department for public life in London could work towards achieving this by finding out how the city works.” Gehl added that by 2012, when the Olympic Games are hosted, London could have a transport network similar to Copenhagen’s, where only a quarter of commuters use a car. He revealed that, thanks to its improved outdoor space, the Danish city has become a city for cyclists and a meeting place rather than just a shopping place. London, he said, needs more traffic-calming measures, “pedestrian priority” streets and public open spaces, as well as an effective system of bike lanes. He also said that growing concerns over the environment and obesity rates, as well as the social benefits of public meeting places, meant public space was becoming increasingly important. “The realisation of public space came a bit later in the UK so there’s much to be done,” he said. “But there’s no reason why in a flat, compact city like London you cannot have a bike system like that.” Gehl added that Barcelona and Melbourne are other “reconquered” cities that people now use for recreational purposes. London, however, is still suffering from the post-war invasion of the car, which led to the creation of vehicle-led, “abandoned” cities.

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