Event Guide: Danish urbanist Jan Gehl coming to Toronto

Danish architect Jan Gehl is one of the world’s foremost experts on transforming public spaces and creating walking-friendly environments. He led the development of London, England’s ambitious pedestrian plan, and he is an important influence in New York’s recent transformation of its streets (discussed in the latest Spacing Radio podcast).

He will be speaking for free in Toronto at the Design Exchange on June 3. Here are some details:

Public Spaces & Public Life for the 21st century
A Discussion with Danish Architect Jan Gehl
Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Time: 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Design Exchange
234 Bay Street, Toronto
Free admission to all

A presentation and discussion of Jan Gehl’s work and research in the area of public space design — from the revitalization of some of the world’s most important urban streets to waterfront redevelopment. Mr. Gehl will discuss his criteria for creating good ublic spaces using lessons from his recent work in places such as ew York, San Francisco, and Melbourne.


  1. Interestingly, the photo of Jan Gehl is of him standing in the middle of George Street, Sydney AUS. The article doesn’t mention his work here, which isn’t surprising. Gehl was commissioned by the City Council to prepare a master plan for Sydney CBD. The NSW State government, which has at least as much power over the area, has ignored, if not rejected, his work.

  2. Jan Gehl is a trailblazer. When I lived on Stroget in Copenhagen in the 1960s, he came up with the idea of turning this narrow street through the middle of Copenhagen into a walking street. It caused a lot of complaints and anxiety. “Nobody will go there and my business will fail” . “How do I get home and what about my car?”
    Jan calmed the people down by giving the experiment one year. If it failed, the cars would return.
    Within a short time, Stroget was the most popular place to shop, live, work and hang out. It’s full of people year around. All other Danish cities and towns now have walking streets and low or traffic-free areas. They generate a lot of of business and pleasure. Complaints have vanished.
    I hope a lot of Toronto lovers will hear Jan Gehl. His vision of urban life fits the Queens Quay future plans, and how about Kensington Market?
    Ulla Colgrass
    Chair, York Quay Neighbourhood Association

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