The Human Scale

Friday 4 July 2014

Popcorn and placemaking were the order of the day at the NLA on Tuesday as a select group of invited urban planners and architects discussed how some of the principles espoused in Jan Gehl’s film, ‘The Human Scale’ could apply to London.

The group, which included Riccardo Marini and Helle Søholt from Gehl Architects, Ben Plowden, Director for Planning and Surface Transport at TfL, Crown Estate chief executive Alison Nimmo and Tristram Carfrae, Deputy Chairman at Arup settled down to watch the film and then debate London’s public realm.

The group made a number of points:
·      Clearing clutter can be an effective aid to creating good spaces
·      Effective leadership, vision and bravery – as happened with Bloomberg and Gehl’s work in New York – are key to getting changes implemented
·      London has in fact made great strides in repairing and improving its public realm since 2001 and these should be celebrated more
·      Crossrail is a good opportunity to attend to London’s public realm and reclaim the streets
·      Temporary projects are a useful and cheap way to implement change and signal that development is coming, as with New York’s Broadway
·      Projects like the diagonals on Oxford Street proved to be good for business with nearby retailers
·      It is in the boroughs’ gift to transform their area, creating a better balance between cyclists, pedestrians and motor cars
·      London needs to improve its air quality
·      The city needs to get better at measuring how people use spaces
·      There is scope to use technology more to get the most out of current transport systems
·      Altering the public realm for the better is all about an incremental approach, rather than a grand masterplan

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

Participants
Pat Brown, Director, Central
Tristram Carfrae, Deputy Chairman, Arup
Richard Dickinson, Chief Executive, New West End Company
Peter Heath, Design Director – Public Realm, Atkins
Graham King, Head of Strategic Planning and Transportation, Westminster City Council  
Lorraine Landels, Director of Strategic Relationships, Buro Happold
Simon Loomes, Strategic Project Director, Portman Estate
Riccardo Andrea Marini, Senior Consultant, Gehl Architects
Peter Murray, Chairman, NLA
Alison Nimmo, Chief Executive, Crown Estate
Tom Platt, London Manager, Living Streets
Ben Plowden, Director for Planning and Surface Transport, TfL
Tim Rettler, Senior Project Officer-Regeneration, GLA
Helle Søholt, Founding Partner, Gehl Architects
Cllr Vincent Stops, LB Hackney

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